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April 2000, Week 3


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 21 Apr 2000 15:14:33 -0400
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Princeton University
Noliwe Rooks <[log in to unmask]>
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Conference Announcement:

Imitating Life: Women, Race and Film, 1932-2000, Princeton University,
September 22-23, 2000
> "Imitation of Life", a surprisingly abiding bit of mid-twentieth century melodrama lends itself unusually well to interdisciplinary dialogue. This story, by the popular writer Fannie Hurst (1885-1968), first appeared in 1932 as a magazine serial. Harper & Bros. released it
concurrently as a novel of best-selling proportions. Universal Studios
produced two major motion pictures based on the work-- John Stahl's 1934
version and a remake by Douglas Sirk in 1959.
> The most enduring aspect of "Imitation of Life" is a racial subplot
> which explores biracial partnership and friendship, white supremacy,
> African American complicity in the phenomena of racially enforced
> subservience, and "passing." Stahl's 1934 film adaptation represents the first serious treatment of the race question in a movie from a major
> Hollywood studio, and the first time a major motion picture featured black actors in substantive roles. It also provided the film industry's first opportunity to enforce its then-new censorship codes regarding the showing of racial mixing on screen.
> Hurst's novel and the 1934 film resonated strongly with audiences on
> both sides of the color line, and aroused months, even years of heated
> debate among African American intellectuals. The critic Sterling Brown, for example, saw demeaning racial stereotypes in the two main black characters, the plantation mammy and the tragic mulatto. He challenged the film's perpetuation of white supremacy and the color bar. Others chose instead to celebrate the work as a milestone on the road to
> improved race relations. In private letters to Hurst, her friend, Zora
> Neale Hurston, twice commented on "the truth of the work." The poet
> Langston Hughes, "as a Negro," thanked Hurst for her role in bringing
> "the first serious treatment of the Negro problem in America" to the
> screen and later parodied the work for the Harlem Suitcase Theater.
> The conference will address and explore many of the above raised
> questions and issues from an interdisciplinary perspective. While the
> conference is free and open to the public, space is limited and
> registration is required.
> Registration forms and information may be found on the conference
> website at For all other information or questions contact us at [log in to unmask]
> Schedule:
> Friday 2:00-6:00 Film Screenings, 185 Nassau Street
35mm showing of the two film versions of "Imitation of Life":
the 1934 starring Claudette Colbert, Louise Beavers and Fredi Washington
and the 1959 with Lana Turner, Juanita Moore and Susan Kohler.
> Friday 7:00-9:00 Keynote Address McCosh 10
> Halle Berry, Actress, Producer, Winner of the Golden Globe, the NAACP
> Image Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for "Dorothy Dandridge."
> Saturday 9:00-11:30 Women, Friendship and "Imitation of Life", McCosh 50
> Panelists:
>      Thadious Davis- English Department, Vanderbilt Universit
>      Cheryl Wall, English Department, Rutgers University
> Comment:
> Ann Douglas, English Department, Columbia University
> Saturday 1:00-3:30 "Imitation of Life", Our Way, McCosh 50
> Panelists:
>      Julie Dash, Director, "Daughters of the Dust" and "Illusions"
>      Charles Burnett, Director, "To Sleep With Anger" and "Killer of
>       Sheep"
> Comment:
>      Donald Bogle, Film Scholar, "Toms, Coons, Mulattos, Mammies &
> Bucks"
>      Jill Nelson, Author, Journalist and Professor, City      University-New York
> Saturday 4:00-6:30 "Censorship, Miscegenation and the Production
> Code",McCosh 50
> Panelists:
>      Richard Dyer, Film Scholar, University of Warick
>      Valerie Smith, English Department, UCLA
> Comment:
> Thomas Cripps, Professor Emeritus, Morgan State University

Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite