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June 1994


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David Desser <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 23 Jun 1994 11:48:40 -0500
text/plain (29 lines)
 I write in response to the following from Don Larsson's erudite posting
re:  SCHINDLER'S LIST, BOAN and Buster Keaton:
>BTW, in Keaton's COLLEGE, he plays a scene in blackface as he takes the only
>job he could get to support himself--a waiter in a restaurant.  When his
>race is discovered, he is chased out the the restaurant by the angry black
>staff armed with cleavers and such.  The messages about race in THAT film
>seem to me to be quite complex!
I'm not sure what the "message about race" is in Keaton's COLLEGE.
Instead, it seems to me that Keaton, as much as any American filmmaker (but
not alone among American filmmakers) reproduced some of the standard
racialist, and perhaps racist, stereotypes of his era.  He finds race a
source of humor throughout the entirety of SEVEN CHANCES, one of his most
sublime feature films in terms of structure and surrealism, but one of his
most troubling in terms of race--a servant black character (portrayed in
blackface by a non-black actor) tries to catch up to Buster throughout the
film, but moves in a slow, dim-witted way; other jokes at the expense of
race, especially blackness, are interspersed throughout.  It is interesting
that his Civil War film, THE GENERAL, has the fewest (none) racialist
"jokes" in Keaton's canon
David Desser,UIUC Cinema Studies
2109 FLB/707 S. Mathews, Urbana, IL  61801