February 17, 2007
1812 One of the most powerful earthquakes to hit North American, struck New Madrid, Missouri temporarily reversing the flow of the mighty Mississippi according to a riverlorian.
1831 First show boat William Chapman
1863 President Lincoln, after two years of civil war declared the Emancipation Proclamation freeing American slaves.
1865-77 Reconstruction period: The period after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.
1870 Fifteenth Amendment gave Black people the right to vote.
1880s and 1890s Fear of Black’s political power led to lynchings . . .
1883 Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi
1889 Chapter One of Ferber’s novel Show Boat opens on an April morning in Natchez, Mississippi. Natchez is south of Cairo where Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri come together. It takes place over a 43 year period.
1893 Chicago World’s Fair World’s Columbian Exposition.
1896 Ziegfeld met actress, Anna Held in London. She encouraged him to develop a show similar to the Paris revue, the Folies-Bergére.
1900 Taylorist political economy
1907 First Ziegfeld revue, the Follies of 1907, opened at the New York Theatre. It was the first of a series of long-running musicals that transformed musical theatre. His musical revues combined beautiful, but scantily clad chorus girls and showgirls with good legs, comedians, innovative and extravagant staging. He spared no expense in hiring the best actors, singers, comedians, composers, lyricists, costumers and set designers.
1909 W.E.B. Du Bois, the first black man to earn a PhD from Harvard University called for the creation of a black encyclopedia.
1912, 1914 and 1919 Ziegfield Follies.
1912 James Weldon Johnson first published The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man which described passing.
1918 Blacks who had served in WWI ideas and scholarship challenged theories of racial determinism and supremacy.
1918 Basu (2002) claimed that the political economic systems from Taylorism, through Fordism, post-Fordism, and flexible accumulation (Harvie 1989) spawned various forms of racial prejudice. Fordism combined with Taylorism as form of political economy. Fordism peaked in 1950s. Taylorism-Fordism encouraged the incorporation of ethnic populations into a hierarchical workforce in what Wallerstein described as ethnicization of workforce (Balibar and Wallerstein 1991). The phenomena of passing and had a socio-economic component.
Frederick Winslow Taylor published The Principles of Scientific Management in 1911, but he started and did much of his work in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. About the installation of the assembly line, Henry Ford comments that “the idea came in a general way from the over-head trolley that the Chicago packers use in dressing beef” (81). Ford dissociates himself from Taylor here, but the consistency of the procedures used in a whole new ergonomics legitimates the hyphenated usage of “Taylorism-Fordism” which stretches, then, from the last decades of the nineteenth century well into the twentieth. Taylorism and Fordism constitute a new ergonomics, but more broadly, they contribute significantly to the twentieth-century culture of the United States. In fact, Antonio Gramsci claims that “Americanism and Fordism” represent an effort “unmatched in history” to create “a new type of worker and of man” (302). Whatever we make of Gramsci’s reading of Taylorism and Fordism, it Is clear that he recognizes that economies of desire must be synchronized with the political economy, that the “new type of man” “cannot be developed until the sexual instinct has been suitably regulated” (297). (Basu 2002).
1920s Harlem Renaissance: Langston Hughes, Arna Bobtemps, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer.
1920s Romantic cynicism replaces 19th century idealism?
1922 George Gershwin’s wrote Blue Monday an opera about Harlem. Blue Monday was orchestrated by Will Vodery, “a prominent Negro musician of the time who worked as an orchestrator for Ziegfeld’s follies and an accomplished conductor.” (Crouch, Stanley (1999) “An Inspired Borrower of a Black Tradition” (NYTimes) January 1999.)
1926 Jerome Kern gets stage rights to Edna Ferber’s Show Boat. He collaborates with Oscar Hammerstein II to write a musical comedy.
1926 Twenty six lynchings in the south.
1927 James Weldon Johnson book The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man was republished during the Harlem Renaissance with a major publisher. According to the Literary Encyclopedia entry, Johnson’s book “influenced the form and content of later African American novels by authors ranging from Johnson’s contemporaries to mid-century novelists such as James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison.”
1927 The original production of Show Boat produced by Ziegfeld opened in December, 1927 at the Ziegfeld Theatre. It was the first great modern musical. It ran for 572 performances. “It was the second longest running musical of the 1920s.” The music was written by? Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II (uncredited?). Tess Gardella plays Queenie.
1928 – 1929 Show Boat opens May 3, 1928 at the Drury Lane Theatre, London, England and plays 572 performances. It was directed by Felix Edwardes. Paul Robeson as Joe becomes the star of the musical.
1929 Stock market crash. The Depression struck.
1929 May 5 Universal Studios film version of Show Boat is released.
1929 Nella Larsen Passing.
1931 The Ziegfeld Girl: Alvina Casucci, danced on Broadway for ten years during the Depression with Ginger Rogers and Milton Birle. She danced nude as a mermaid in the 1931 Ziegfeld Follies. Ziegfeld lost his personal fortune through massive gambling debts and Wall Street losses (Kreuger:99). Ziegfeld’s last show had to be financed by mobsters.
1932 The Ziegfeld revival. It was his last production. Show Boat played in New York, 180 performances at the Casino Theatre. Edna Ferber was moved by Paul Robeson, who replaced Jules Bledsoe playing Joe. The original Casino Theatre was built in an exotic Moorish design in 1882. (Kreuger:101)
1936 The Great Ziegfield, a film on the life of Broadway producer, Ziegfeld, produced by Henry Blanke and British director, James Whale, received the best picture award of 1936.
1936 Universal film directed by Englishman James Whale. Musical version of Show Boat with Paul Robeson, Irene Dunne and Hattie McDaniel. The Great Depression continues.
1930s Richard Wright: Black writers.
1940 Edna Ferber writes her biography A Peculiar Treasure.
1945 MGM film production ZIEGFELD FOLLIES (1945) directed by Vincente Minnelli. With a cast of top stars:William Powell, Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Esther Williams, Red Skelton, Gene Kelly, Fanny Brice, Edward Arnold. It was the first time Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly danced together. It made over $5 million.
1945 End of WWII. Returned Black servicemen demand integration and civil rights. Following World War II, returned Black servicemen demanded integration and civil rights. Basu (2002) claimed that the political economic systems from Taylorism (1900-), through Fordism (1918-), post-Fordism, and flexible accumulation (Harvie 1989) spawned various forms of racial prejudice. Fordism peaked in the 1950s. Taylorism-Fordism encouraged the incorporation of ethnic populations into a hierarchical workforce in what Wallerstein described as ethnicization of workforce (Balibar and Wallerstein 1991). The phenomena of passing and had a socio-economic component.
1946 Cidd Ricketts-Sumner wrote her novel Quality (1946). Ricketts-Sumner was an educated woman with an MA from Columbia University and some medical training. Quality like Show Boat dealt with the theme of miscegenation.
1947 Broadway production of Show Boat. check date 1946?
1948 South African author Alan Paton (1903-1988) wrote Cry, My Beloved Country about race relations in in this novel situated in pre-apartheid South Africa.
1949 Kurt Weill produced a shallow, melodramatic musical Lost in the Stars based loosely on Alan Paton’s (1948) Cry, My Beloved Country.
1949 Elia Kazan directed the film Pinky based on Cidd Ricketts-Sumner’s novel Quality (1946). Phillip Dunne (1908-1992) and Dudley Nichols (1895-1960), both activists in their own way, did the screen writing.
1949 Cid Ricketts-Sumner published But the Morning Will Come a book about passing.
1951 MGM Film version of Show Boat. Directed by George Sidney. Ava Gardner plays Julie. William Warfield plays Joe. The film grossed over $8 million. Frank Sinatra sang Ol’ Man River.?
1951 Zolton Korda directed the film version of Cry, My Beloved Country. Author Alan Paton contributed to the screenplay version.
1951 Till the Clouds Roll By Tony Martin as Ravenal; Julie is Lena Horne.
1954 On April 8 the New York City Opera presented Show Boat at the New York City Centre. The musical was elevated to the role of great art. (Kreuger:198)
1954 Brown vs the Board of Education ended segregation in education in the U.S.A.
1959 Film Version of Show Boat starring Ava Gardner as Julie?
1965 Assassination of Malcolm X.
1966 Stage production at the Lincoln Centre.
1960s Revivals of musicals. The era of nostalgia. (Marks 1999) NYT 99/01/24)
1960s Motown glory years.
1971 Thomas Carey in role of Joe is a sensation in London.
1987 Harold Prince revival of Cabaret.
1988 Show Boat recording with Frederica von Stade and Teresa Stratas.
1989 In The Condition of Postmodernity (1989) human geographer David Harvey described “the shift in the understanding of time and space operative in the postmodern experience, a shift characterized primarily by an intensification of space-time compression. For Harvey, postmodernism is a cultural manifestation of late capitalism and a transformation of time and space that serves to accommodate a shift from a political economy based on Fordism to one based on flexible accumulation.”
1989 Livent opens The Phantom of the Opera in December. Receipts for The Phantom of the Opera were $1.5 million. Livent developed their first educational program.
1991 Livent begins to manage the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts for the North York Performing Arts Centre Corporation.
1992 The Stephen Lewis Report (anti-Black racism in Ontario).
1993 World premiere of Livent’s $10 million production Show Boat opened in October 17, 1993 at the North York. Livent, Drabinsky’s production company uses Show Boat as a teaching tool.
1995-99 Dr. Henry Louis Gates develops the CD-ROM Encarta Africana in Microsoft’s Encarta series.
1994 – 1997 The Broadway production of Livent’s Show Boat opened October 2, 1994 to ‘unanimous critical acclaim’ (www.livent.com) played 951 performances over a 27 week period. Its receipts were $100 million. It attracted 1.5 million people. It won five Tony awards including Best Revival of a Musical.
1994 Pinky was released as VHS by Movies Unlimited in 1994 and on DVD 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in 2006.
1995 Cry, My Beloved Country was produced by Miramax Films.
1998 Livent’s Show Boat opens in Australia.
1998 U.S. businessmen Roy Furman and Michael Ovitz take control of Livent. They file for bankruptcy protection in November. Livent Inc. last annual financial balance sheet listed total revenue of $321,092,000; a loss of -44,131,000. It’s operations were suspended in November, 1998. (Thomson Canada Ltd.)
1998 Hollywoodism; Jews, Movies and the American Dream ( aka Hollywood: An Empire of Their Own (USA: video title) a documentary was produced by Simcha Jacobovici. He referred to the film Pinky.
1999 Garth Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb, co-founders of Livent, face criminal charges in the United States. They are accused of fraud.
1999 Broadway Musical Annie Get Your Gun, the 1946 hit musical with music by Irving Berlin, is revived in a “wholesale renovation” (Marks. 1999. “Rewrite a Classic Musical?” NYT).
1999 The Mississippi: River of Song a PBS seven-part radio series on Mississippi River music. (Rogers, J. 1999 www.ottawacitizen/990105/e010521.html)
2000 Livent’s Show Boat’s (www.livent.com) North American tour supposed to continue into 2000. It was sponsored by Canadian Airlines.
2006 Pinky was released as VHS by Movies Unlimited in 1994 and on DVD 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in 2006.
©© Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 1999-2007. “A Timeline of Show Boat, Pinky and Other Tales of Miscegenation.” Creative Commons Copyright License 2.5 BY-NC-SA
February 16, 2007
Black and white films as popular culture provided an nonthreatening space where viewers could experience vicariously the extremes of hatred in the form of injustice, violence, cowardice, and despair, or idyllic romance, heroism, and hope. With the appearance of film classics on VCR in the 1990s — and now on DVD — we can imagine how previous generations spent their leisure hours, and perhaps how popular culture formed and informed their identities and by osmosis some of our own. I watched Pinky, one of the award-winning films1 of 1949 by controversial director Elia Kazan2, and recognized blatant stereotypes that had survived well into the 1950s and 1960s and were in no way limited to the southern states: the rebel girl who refused to conform to suffocating limitations based on gender, geography and race, the deified family doctors, the Black Mammy and preacher who had internalized prejudices and avoided overstepping their assigned status, the grumpy but kind and wealthy spinster, the wise judge, the bigoted but upright citizens of small-town America and white spinsters and matrons with formidable undeserved power to sway public opinion through gossip.
The overt racism of most of the cast of small rural town Alabama in the 1940s cut across lines of colour. The ubiquitous role of a heavy-set, weary but wise black maid was played by Ethel Waters (b. 1900) as Granny Dysey Johnson, who worked for a wealthy widow Miss Em (Ethel Barrymore) in her fine southern mansion. Granny Dysey lived a form of internalized racism which we only began to name in the post-colonial period. Her rejection of her granddaughter’s white fiancée was as adamant as Mrs. Woolly insistence that a store clerk interrupt her transaction with the ‘colored’ Pinky to serve a white customer first. The main character, the granddaughter Patricia ‘Pinky’ Johnson, played by Jeanne Crain (b. 1925), was ashamed of her black blood and “passed” for white, leaving her home in Alabama for a northern nursing school. While taking care of the ailing Miss Em they developed mutual respect and learned from each other. Gradually Pinky came to accept her black roots while refusing any limitations they placed on her, no easy feat in the 1940s in Alabama.
When Miss Em bequeaths her estate to Pinky the town turns against her. Neither the black nor white population want her to take possession of the mansion. Mrs. Wooly, Miss Em’s cousin who feels she was defrauded out of her inheritance challenges the will in a court of law.
Oddly enough Jeanne Crain is very Caucasian, which is quite confusing in scenes such as when Pinky and her grandmother literally walk the gauntlet of angry jurors following the verdict in her favour. Crain earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her role, one of the few serious roles she played. Apparently Lena Horne had wanted this role but was rejected to avoid unsettling contemporary audiences who would have been uncomfortable with the affection between the coloured Pinky and her white Bostonian fiancée.
Following the judge’s decision to accept the will as valid, Pinky and her fiancée Dr. Thomas Adam returned to Miss Em’s stately mansion. We see them from the second floor looking small and insignificant in the spacious foyer. As they walk from room to room they become more and more distant from one another. Dr. Adam calculates the value of expensive heirlooms and plans on the disposal of Miss Em’s valuable belongings. In an off-handed way he informs Pinky of his new position in Denver, which would be their new home. He had to leave his medical practice in Boston since the story of the court case had made the news there too. Once they were married she would no longer be Pinky Johnson. Her new identity would be as Mrs. Thomas Adam. She could leave all of the small-town bigotry, humiliations and injustice behind her. But this announcement had the opposite effect on Pinky who felt that the magnanimous gift from Miss Em had to be met with an equally grand gesture on her part. In the closing shots we see the estate transformed into a bustling clinic and child care facility.
The author of the novel on which this film was based was Cid Ricketts-Sumner, an educated woman with an MA from Columbia University and some medical training. She was one of a small group of people willing to discuss complex racial relations, hybridity4, miscegenation and the phenomena of passing3 in her novels Quality (1946) and But the Morning Will Come (1949).
In 1927 Zeigfeld’s Show Boat opened and became the longest running musical of the 1920s. The unlikely themes of this modern musical5 included hybridity, miscegenation and the phenomenon of passing. By the time Ricketts-Sumner published her second book But the Morning Will Come (1949) on the theme of passing, her first was already in film. Renamed Pinky, it was directed by Elia Kazan with script writing by Phillip Dunne (1908-1992) and Dudley Nichols (1895-1960), both activists in their own way. Show Boat was making another comeback with a Broadway version in 1947 and an MGM film version in 1951.
1 Academy Awards, USA: Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Leading Role Jeanne Crain (b. 1925), Best Actress in a Supporting Role Writers Guild of America, USA: WGA Award (Screen) for The Robert Meltzer Award (Screenplay Dealing Most Ably with Problems of the American Scene).
2 Pinky was referenced in Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and the American Dream (1998).
3Other books about passing include Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929) and James Weldon Johnson’s (1912 ) The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Qualls (1949) claimed Sumner lacked writing skills evident in the way in which she inserted profound lectures on race unconvincingly delivered by her female character Bentley Churston, a high school graduate married to a part-Negro husband. James Weldon Johnson 1912 book about passing, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, was republished with a major publisher in 1927 during the Harlem Renaissance. According to the Literary Encyclopedia entry, Johnson’s book “influenced the form and content of later African American novels by authors ranging from Johnson’s contemporaries to mid-century novelists such as James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison.”
4 Basu interprets literature on similar themes and identifies various forms of prejudice according to contemporary political economies. His references to the work of Deleuze, Guattari, Hardt, Foucault, Balibar, Wallerstein and Nella Larsen drew my attention to the impact of shifts in political economies on the changing face of racism.
In the incorporation of different peoples into a global economy, racism operates through what Wallerstein calls an” ‘ethnicization’ of the work force,” a process which adjusts different “human genetic and social pools” to the “hierarchical needs of the economy” at different times and in different places (Balibar 1991:33-34). Perhaps Deleuze and Guattari come closer to the phenomenon being addressed here in their assertion that racism operates “by the determination of degrees of deviance in relation to the White-Man face” (1987:178); that is, the deviance from the physiognomy of whiteness. Commenting on the above passage from Deleuze and Guattari, Michael Hardt suggests that we speak of racist practice “not in terms of exclusion but as a strategy of differential inclusion” (146) (Basu 2002:1).
5 South African author Alan Paton’s (1903-1988) Cry, My Beloved Country (1948) about race relations in this novel situated in pre-apartheid South Africa was turned into a shallow melodramatic musical called Lost in the Stars (1949) by Kurt Weill. In 1951 Zolton Korda directed the film version of Cry, My Beloved Country. Author Alan Paton contributed to the screenplay version.
Selected webliography and bibliography
Abel, Elizabeth, Barbara Christian, and Helene Moglen, eds. , 1999. Female Subjects in Black and White: Race, Psychoanalysis, Feminism. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Balibar, Etienne, and Immanuel Wallerstein. 1991. Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities. London: Verso.
Basu, Biman. 2002. “Hybrid embodiment and an ethics of masochism: Nella Larsen’s Passing and Sherley Anne William’s Dessa Rose.” African American Review. Fall.
Basu, Biman. The Commerce of Peoples: A Reading of African American Literature.
Butler, Judith. 1999. “Passing, Queering: Nella Larsen’s Psychoanalytic Challenge.” Abel, Elizabeth, Barbara Christian, and Helene Moglen, Eds. Female Subjects in Black and White: Race, Psychoanalysis, Feminism. Berkeley: University of California Press. 266-84.
Butler, Octavia. 1988. Kindred. Boston: Beacon Press.
Deleuze, Gilles. 1991. “Coldness and Cruelty.” Masochism. New York: Zone Books. 9-138.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Fauset, Jessie. 1926  Plum Bun. 1926. Boston: Beacon Press.
Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 1999-2007. “A Timeline of Show Boat, Pinky and Other Tales of Miscegenation.”
Ford, Henry. 1922 . My Life and Work. New York: Amo.
Foucault, Michel. Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984: Ethics, Subjectivity, and Truth. Ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: New P, 1997.
Foucault, Michel. Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1993.
Foucault, Michel. Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings, 1977-1984. Ed. Lawrence Kritzman. New York: Routledge, 1990.
Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. Ed. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon, 1980.
Gramsci, Antonio. 1992. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. New York: International.
Hardt, Michael. 1998. “The Global Society of Control.” Discourse 20:3: 139-52.
Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. 2000. Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Harvey, David. 1989. The Condition of Postmodernity: an Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change.
Henderson, Mae. 1999. “The Stories of (O)Dessa: Stories of Complicity and Resistance.” Abel, Elizabeth, Barbara Christian, and Helene Moglen, eds. Female Subjects in Black and White: Race, Psychoanalysis, Feminism. Berkeley: University of California Press. 285-304.
Kazan, Elia. 1949 [1994, 2006]. Pinky.
Larsen, Nella. 1928  Passing. 1928. Salem: Ayer.
McDowell, Deborah. 1986. “Introduction.” Quicksand and Passing. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP. ix-xxxv.
Morrison, Toni. 1988. Tar Baby. New York: Knopf.
Naylor, Gloria, and Toni Morrison. 1985. “A Conversation.” Southern Review NS 21. July. 567-93.
Parry, Benita. 1988. “Problems in Current Theories of Colonial Discourse.” Oxford Literary Review 9: 27-58.
Qualls, Youra. 1949. “World They Never Made: Only the Anatomy of Disaster: Reviews of Alien Land by Willard Savoy and But the Morning Will Come by Cid Ricketts Sumner.” Phylon (1940-1956). 10:2:185-187.
Ricketts-Sumner, Cid. 1946. Quality.
Ricketts-Sumner, Cid. Tammy
Ricketts-Sumner, Cid. 1949. But the Morning Will Come. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. 302 pp.
Sullivan, Neil. 1998. “Nella Larsen’s Passing and the Fading Subject.” African American Review. Fall.
Williams, Sherley Anne. 1987. Dessa Rose. New York: Berkley.
Williams, Sherley Anne. 1990. “Meditations on History.” Black-Eyed Susans/Midnight Birds. Ed. Mary Helen Washington. New York: Anchor. 230-77.
©© Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. Review of the DVD Pinky (1949). Copyright Creative Commons License 2.5