Are there any black execs in the TCM programming room? They've got 4 TCM hosts -- senior host Ben Mankiewicz, Eddie Muller, Dave Karger and Alicia Malone. There are 5 hosts if you count the occasionally seen Disney expert, Leonard Maltin. All Caucasian.
Ben Mankiewicz is a lovely, lovely man whose work I have enjoyed for years. You can always count on Ben Mankiewicz to bring up the importance of racial equality. He did that in April of last year on the TCM Film Festival red carpet in Hollywood when the race drama/murder mystery IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT received a 50th anniversary screening with star Sidney Poitier and Lee, director Norman Jewison, and producer Walter Mirisch in attendance. Ben posed a question on the red carpet about the relevance of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT today in this age of "Black Lives Matter." Ben warned folks that BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S contained Mickey Rooney's ethnic stereotype performance as an Asian upstairs neighbor. I wish pianist/singer Michael Feinstein had taken a tip from Ben Mankiewicz late last December when he was guest host. Feinstein introduced THE DOLLY SISTERS starring Betty Grable and June Haver. He told the audience to look for the lavish, surreal costumes in the "Lipstick, Powder and Rouge" number.
I sat on my couch and thought, "You should prepare them for "The Darktown Strutters' Ball." That production number had shapely showgirls and poor Betty Grable all in blackface. And Betty was not only in blackface, she was dressed as a pickaninny. So was June Haver. You need to warn folks about stuff like that. There have been other blackface numbers seen in other classic movies that have aired since THE DOLLY SISTERS.
In a way, the TCM host group is like a 1930s Hollywood movie that has lead characters talking about the importance of racial equality -- but the movie has an all-white cast. There's no black representation in segments in between the movies. We didn't even see a black guest co-host in prime time on Dr. Martin Luther King Day a few months ago when TCM salute African American filmmakers.
I love Bing Crosby musical comedies and his powerful dramatic skills, as in 1954's THE COUNTRY GIRL, just knock me out. However, as much as Bing loved and respected Black music and artists, Bing was late getting the memo to "Nix the blackface numbers."
So be prepared. While Bing sings, poor Marjorie Reynolds is also in blackface -- and dressed as a pickaninny.
Here's a note about the classic MGM musical:
Hollywood frustrated Jeni LeGon. She relocated to Canada in 1969 and, there, she became a highly respected and popular dance teacher/coach. She died in 2012 at age 96.
Happy Easter. And remember...."Representation Matters."