Sidelined in Hollywood | Performing Arts Reviews

Anyone seeking to study, and dismantle, structures of oppression will appreciate this clarifying read; this engaging, forthright, and personal history of both the author and her muse will be a valuable addition to most libraries

redstarErigha, Maryann. The Hollywood Jim Crow: The Racial Politics of the Movie Industry. New York Univ. Feb. 2019. 240p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781479886647. $89; pap. ISBN 9781479847877. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781479802319. FILM
Erigha (sociology & African American studies, Univ. of Georgia) analyzes the barriers that black filmmakers face in Hollywood. Examining the experiences of black director, and the fate of their films, the author documents how the economics and politics of U.S. film production remain structured by a Jim Crow–era logic. The book focuses on several types of structural racism: the lack of representation behind and in front of the camera, the framing of black films as economically risky, and the ways in which white-controlled Hollywood marginalizes black directors and segregates their films as niche projects. Finally, Erigha explores how black directors are pressured to center whiteness in order to build a viable career. The final chapter considers how these filmmakers might purposefully organize for power within the industry, creating the potential to remake the landscape of black opportunity toward a more inclusive future.
VERDICT In addition to looking at black filmmakers, this well-written work demonstrates a cogent understanding of institutional racism and could inform a similar investigation of other sectors. Anyone seeking to study, and dismantle, structures of oppression will appreciate this clarifying read.—Anna J. ­Clutterbuck-Cook, ­Massachusetts Historical Soc., Boston

O’Meara, Mallory. The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick. Hanover Square: Harlequin. Mar. 2019. 368p. notes. ISBN 9781335937803. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488098741. FILM
Particularly timely in light of the #MeToo movement, this book is more than simply a tribute to a forgotten pioneer of special effects and makeup design, Milicent Patrick. The creator of the iconic mask used in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and one of the first female animators for Walt Disney, Patrick seemed destined for a memorable career before encountering the sexism of male coworkers threatened by her talents. When she was a child, her father had been superintendent of construction at newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst’s Hearst Castle, so readers are also treated to a fascinating side story about life in and around San Simeon, CA, as well as the peripatetic life of Patrick’s family. But it’s the book’s subtitle that clearly has a twofold meaning for author, screenwriter, and producer O’Meara, reflecting her passion for the project. The individuals she discusses are also those who are part of the internalized misogyny of the industry, and she and her subject had to handle very similar situations and prejudices.
VERDICT This engaging, forthright, and personal history of both the author and her muse will be a valuable addition to most libraries.—Peter ­Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA

 

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