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 Posted:   Nov 21, 2007 - 10:03 AM   
 By:   neotrinity   (Member)

It’a a durn cite certain Sidney Poitier’s figurative and literal shoulders have lightened up conclusively



from the days when he was the cinematic Atlas of an entire ethnic group.



That is, bearing the immense responsibility for carrying their aspirations and representations to a world still almost terminally uncomfortable with the notion anyone of a colorful dispensation (let alone pigmentation) could simultaneously evoke the very essence of class, dignity, intelligence and integrity.

[ Granted this fateful role had its tricky trade-offs (ka-mon, in



Sidney was so damn perfect, hell, we'd have married him!). smile One can imagine upper, middle and lower class parents of vanilla vintage the world over smiling politely to their daughters and saying, "See, if they were all like him, we wouldn't mind!) ] wink

Twas instructive during his Kennedy Center Awards, friend and artistic ally Paul Newman said, “He wasn’t making movies, he was making monuments”.



All too true (which is why if the times were different, they’d have been better movies and less monumental in their symbolic stature).

Still, it’s next to impossible to imagine Poitier’s profound pioneering not being a liberating vision for the later arrival of Denzel Washington, who’s taken the previous somewhat straitjacketed expectations his predecessor was saddled with and tossed in a terrific new twist for what’s not only acceptable but expected of those who are actors first (and societal representations second).





Whether it’s his razor-sharp intensity as the rebellious Civil War soldier in GLORY (Best Supporting Actor Oscar)



or, especially, his galvanizing, unsentimental and totally irredeemable rogue cop in TRAINING DAY (Best Actor Oscar)



one would be hard-pressed to imagine Poitier being allowed - key word, this - that kind of luxurious (and unapologetic) freedom back in the Fifties and, especially, Sixties.

Which then brings us to the third member of our (ah) trinity, Morgan Freeman. Like Washington, the former honed his considerable craft within the rigorous crucible of the theatre and consciously chose not to go Hollywood but figured the industry would come to him once his work became known for its uniqueness.

Anyone who’s seen his riveting silky snake in STREET SMART



(especially his utterly electrifying – to say nothing of terrifying - scenes with Kathy Baker)



knows it’s absolutely the first and last cinematic statement in the depiction of a sociopathically charming poisonous pimp. Then he turns right around and delivers an equally admirable characterization in GLORY



whilst finally corralling his own gold accolade for MILLION DOLLAR BABY.



Mind you (yes, Sir M, we know) there are others equally laudable (we’ll save James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett Jr. and, of the Next Generation, particularly Laurence Fishburne for another ripe retrospective) but we feel these three can get the appreciative accolades going in and of themselves.



To SIR, With Love cool

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 21, 2007 - 10:55 AM   
 By:   Paul MacLean   (Member)

I'd like to put in a plug for Laurence Fishburne too...




Fishburne was the first Black actor to play The Moor on screen...and no one ever really noticed.

He was magnificent too.

 
 Posted:   Nov 21, 2007 - 11:57 AM   
 By:   SheriffJoe   (Member)

I must also add the importance of one LeVar Burton and his breakout performance in Roots, which itself was a landmark achievment in the filmed medium (albeit perfectly placed in homes across the world on the more intimate small screen). He gave black youth at that time a pwoerful sense of pride, and rightfully so. While nowhere near the household name that Sidney, or Denzel or Morgan has, he is still an accomplished actor (again, moreso on the small screen with Next Generation than with the same franchise's theatrical releases) and, moreso, an accomplished director as well.

Just my two sense...for what they are worth.

Joe

P.S. Yes, I spelled sense spelled exactly right, thank you very much. smile

 
 Posted:   Nov 21, 2007 - 1:57 PM   
 By:   Jehannum   (Member)

My sister would beg inclusion of a certain Mr Forest Whitaker, being a consummate admirer of his ever since she saw him in The Crying Game.

I don't even think about the racial import. I just know I thoroughly enjoy Morgan Freeman's performances.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 21, 2007 - 4:08 PM   
 By:   manderley   (Member)

.....Mind you (yes, Sir M, we know) there are others equally laudable.....


Yes, certainly Sidney, Denzel, and Morgan have gotten the acclaim. It's easy to cast your vote for these boxoffice giants, but my vote, based on viewings in the 1940s, goes to one James Edwards, who was, in my mind, the first African-American to portray non-stereotypical male roles early on, particularly with his wonderful performance in HOME OF THE BRAVE, in 1949.

Perhaps he was there too early to be turned into the Poitier "matinee idol" type, even with his careful and subtle performances. Too bad.

We've forgotten Juano Hernandez completely. Another fine, low-key, and subtle performer---superb in INTRUDER IN THE DUST.

I also think we tend to downgrade Harry Belafonte's pioneering work---his performances (as well as Dorothy Dandridge's)in CARMEN JONES in 1954---but, in particular, their performances in that amazingly simple, but superior, little-seen MGM film of 1953, BRIGHT ROAD, are wonderful. And isn't Belafonte one of the first to appear in an interracial romantic role in ISLAND IN THE SUN? All of these things broke boundaries in an early way, paving the way for the others to surpass them.

 
 Posted:   Nov 21, 2007 - 7:49 PM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

I'd like to put in a plug for Laurence Fishburne too...




Fishburne was the first Black actor to play The Moor on screen...and no one ever really noticed.

He was magnificent too.


Actually, opera singer/actor Willard White did it long before, against Ian McKellen's Iago. Stage version was filmed both in black and white and colour:

 
 Posted:   Nov 22, 2007 - 12:08 AM   
 By:   Jehannum   (Member)

My best friend got a lift home from Willard White when he sang with the Birmingham Symphony Chorus. He says he's a top bloke.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 22, 2007 - 1:34 AM   
 By:   Guy Fawkes   (Member)

As opposed to Las Vegas casino owner and tycoom Willard Whyte (accept no substitutes).


We've forgotten Juano Hernandez completely. Another fine, low-key, and subtle performer---superb in INTRUDER IN THE DUST.

And even better in YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN. What a wonderful actor he was.

 
 Posted:   Nov 22, 2007 - 8:15 PM   
 By:   Warlok   (Member)

I particularly Laurence Fishburne`s work. Even if you aren`t a sci-fi/horror buff, I would hope one could appreciate the integrity of the captain character he plays in Event Horizon.

Also, who played Doctor Daystrom, builder of 'M5' in the original Trek? Brilliant, obsessed, and thoroughly admirable. Powerful stage presence.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2007 - 4:05 AM   
 By:   Guy Fawkes   (Member)

The late Shakespearean actor William Marshall, whom I had the pleasure of meeting about ten years ago at a Motion Picture Academy 50-year commemoration of the instituting of the Hollywood Blacklist. Lovely man.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2007 - 6:33 AM   
 By:   neotrinity   (Member)

LeVar







Forest



James Edwards



Juano Hernandez





Harry of Belafonte





William Marshall



And, far and away, our favorite of the Current Generation:



(And the fact he's for one and all-time Morpheus has absolutely nuttin' 2 dew wit it!) wink



As for the esteemed Mr. White, he's eloquent beyond his singing:

"Show me the human being who has not suffered in some way, and I will show you a person without life. Life is difficult ... I have low points when I doubt, but I have learnt that doubt is an opportunity to gain clarity."



...

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2007 - 8:43 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Denzel is terrific. But I wonder if he hasn't fallen into a kind of reverse of the Sidney Poitier trap. Didn't he once say that he took care not to be seen kissing Julia Roberts in THE PELICAN BRIEF? The implication was that it would be politically incorrect for a black male star to be seen romancing a white woman. The problem was not old-fashioned white racism but rather the negative effect upon black women's self-esteem. His motives may be commendable, but this is still a significant limitation on his potential range.

Correct me if I'm wrong. I don't claim to have seen all of DZ's subsequent films

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2007 - 10:28 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Bill Cosby was the first black film/TV actor that I truly became familiar with in the 80's. Loved his show.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 24, 2007 - 6:56 AM   
 By:   neotrinity   (Member)



Asgardian tho thou may be, Odin-sun, we're willing to sponsor you for Immortal status so you can beam back to the 60s and catch The Cos' truly groundbreaking stint with the incomparable Robert Culp in



 
 Posted:   Nov 24, 2007 - 9:17 AM   
 By:   Urs Lesse   (Member)

I used to admire Denzel Washington, but only until I saw MAN ON FIRE. I lost all respect for him while watching that movie. Most fascist movie I ever saw.

To close on a more positive note - when speaking of other black actors that I find remarkable, I'd single out Jeffrey Wright.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 24, 2007 - 5:02 PM   
 By:   neotrinity   (Member)

In a previous thread of personally-professional praise for ANGELS OF AMERICA, we offered our admiring appraisal of Jeffrey Wright (who we hope to have the professionally-personal honor of working with in the future).









In fact, now that you mention it, he's tied with Fishburne for our favorite of the New Generation ...




[ By the bye, Hand, not having seen Man on Fire as yet, we've just gotta say: seems to us you're puttin' an awful lotta weight on just Denzel's shoulders, pal; last tyme we looked, there were an army of others also associated with that film. Have you written them off and consigned them to ignoble oblivion just on the basis of a single mo'om pitcher? wink Just offering an observation and askin' outta epic curiosity, is all ] ...

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 25, 2007 - 12:34 AM   
 By:   Guy Fawkes   (Member)

Denzel is terrific. But I wonder if he hasn't fallen into a kind of reverse of the Sidney Poitier trap. Didn't he once say that he took care not to be seen kissing Julia Roberts in THE PELICAN BRIEF? The implication was that it would be politically incorrect for a black male star to be seen romancing a white woman. The problem was not old-fashioned white racism but rather the negative effect upon black women's self-esteem. His motives may be commendable, but this is still a significant limitation on his potential range.

There's no implication or ambiguity in this, John. Denzel has stated that his most loyal audience is black women, and he knows that a black-white on-screen romance is something they simply don't want to see him in.

In a way, it's a throwback to the old, Big Studio days, when the moguls and executives kept and cast their stars within carefully calculated acting ranges and milieux. They weren't about to tinker with success, and neither is Denzel, who seems very loyal to his fans.

 
 Posted:   Nov 25, 2007 - 12:57 AM   
 By:   Urs Lesse   (Member)

By the bye, Hand, not having seen Man on Fire as yet, we've just gotta say: seems to us you're puttin' an awful lotta weight on just Denzel's shoulders, pal; last tyme we looked, there were an army of others also associated with that film. Have you written them off and consigned them to ignoble oblivion just on the basis of a single mo'om pitcher? wink Just offering an observation and askin' outta epic curiosity, is all ] ...

What a (highly welcome) measured response. And you are right, he cannot be the only one to carry that weight. Much of my horror of how he could join that questionable enterprise could be applied to others contributing to the movie whom I held in high or at least good esteem before (e.g. director Tony Scott and composer Harry Gregson-Williams whose previous collaboration on SPY GAME I enjoyed a lot). Disappointment grows when the contrast to what you thought of a person before is particularly big. Prior to Man on Fire, what I knew Denzel Washington from was Cry Freedom, Philadelphia, John Q and especially The Manchurian Candidate, so he had already climbed quite a height in my book before I got to see this one. And yet I find it hard to understand why he would have signed for this one. I am sure he could have gone for better ways to counter the Mr. Nice Guy tag a bit, if that is what he wanted.

Again, thanks for the measured response.

Urs

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 25, 2007 - 7:49 AM   
 By:   neotrinity   (Member)

Guess it shows just how rare it is around these (often) pugnacious parts that it's like discovering ancient Lapis Lazuli to encounter civilized discourse. eek

Thank you for your equally thoughtful sentiments, Urs. We'd just offer the future caveat to consciously postpone placing ANYONE (let alone actors) on any kind of premediated pedestal; it's quite a precarious perch to maintain (let alone survive) when we're not privy to the myriad choices that go into anyone getting involved in a project.

As for vu, Guy/'vie smile, we wholeheartedly agree with your perspective. The only area we'd profoundly part company is that those in front of the camera these nefariously media-savvy days are probably more calculated in what and how they present themselves that even the Studios of yore (and mine) would've been in awe of.

Now, whether that's reason for elation or consternation would take far wiser seers than us to examine. wink

But back to our regularly scheduled retrospective:

It's taken too long for us to get around to saluting the esteemed Ossie Davis, whose voice's melodious richness could rival Olivier



and also directed what still remains (Shaft and Superfly significantly came afterward) THE joyously captivating kickoff to the whole genre in the 70s, the marvelously entertaining





Rest easy, Ossie; the world of the arts is tremendously lessened by your passing last year ... frown

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 25, 2007 - 9:27 PM   
 By:   riotengine   (Member)

The late Shakespearean actor William Marshall, whom I had the pleasure of meeting about ten years ago at a Motion Picture Academy 50-year commemoration of the instituting of the Hollywood Blacklist. Lovely man.

Today on TVLand they aired the Bonanza episode where he played a reknowned Opera singer who experiences racism in Virginia City. A little preachy, but Marshall was VERY good.

Greg Espinoza

 
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