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Neil

Kate Smith Controversy

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Neil    1,379

Evidently Kate Smith was a big fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers (hockey?) and sang "God Bless America" at many of their games all the way up until her illness.  In honor of Kate, the Steelers erected one of those UGLY bronze statues of her.  (Has there ever been a bronze statue that was flattering?)  The Steelers recently took down her statue for her racism: some offensive song she sang in the 30s.

First off, let me say that I defer to those who have the right to be offended.  I grew up in an all-white (except for one kid) community and did not even know the n-word was a derogatory term.   We, born with white privilege, really do take it for granted and can be insensitive to how we (as a group) have treated minorities.  BUT if you're going to start eliminating a performer's entire body of work (or categorize them as shamefully racist)  based on one song, where does it end?  Because in the 30s, and even into the 50s, everybody did it.  The Marx Brothers "Day at the Races"'s number "Who Dat Man?", everything Eddie Cantor or Al Jolson and many many vaudevillians did, but also LUCY!!  Remember the scene in Fuller Brush Girl when she and Eddie Albert emerge from the smokestack, their faces all darkened by soot.  What music is playing in the background?  "Way Down Upon the Swannee River"....the reference is not subtle.   Burns & Allen: as part of a vaudeville show they participated in, someone does Eddie Cantor in blackface.   The list could go on and on.  And don't forget the most popular (and longest running) radio sitcom "Amos n Andy".  I can see why the radio version could be considered offensive because it was two white men doing dialect.  I'm less sure about the TV series controversy.  Yes, Andy and "the Kingfish" were bumbling (and very so very FUNNY) , but in every episode I've seen, it's an all-black cast including prominent people: judges, policemen, etc. played by black actors.   And were they any more bumbling than any number of white man portrayed in TV comedies, including the still-running "Simpsons" and "Family Guy"?  A&A was pulled by CBS after only 2 highly rated seasons, but lived on for YEARS in syndication, well into the 60s.  CBS finally pulled it from syndication in 1966 because of NAACP pressure. 

I heard about the Kate Smith controversy on Bill Maher's show this last Friday.   I don't appreciate Bill referring to her TV appearances in his youth as "they'd drag that old bag out for a song.  I thought she was Ethel Merman".     If you look at some of Kate's 60s variety show appearances, her voice was, simply put, thrilling.  For a real kick, check out Kate on the Cher Show where she, Cher and Tina Turner make the most unlikely trio since Dinah Shore, Lucy and Diana Ross.  They sing a medley of Beatles tunes and Kate does not embarrass herself  (but leaves the lyric "I get HIGH with a little help from my friends'" to Tina. ). But speaking of discrimination, Kate had more than her share of body shaming, a discriminatory teasing thing that is still mostly OK.  Along with gay jokes. 

And by the way, this one black kid in grade school...he was just one of the guys, not treated any differently or taunted that I ever witnessed.  His parents in all-white St. Helens, Oregon might not have had it so lucky. 

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Luvsbway    2,090

CBS Sunday Morning had 2 text screens leading into commercial this morning. It was basically a clap back stating what you did in the first paragraph. Pointing out other people we know who sang songs with racist things in the lyrics too, because it was the time.

They had it as the Flyers though, not the Steelers. That's actually how I found out about it. Someone on my FB posted about the statue missing. I had to ask what that was all about.

 

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Freddie2    867

Yes, the Steelers are a football team (who just love to take players from Michigan:lucymeh: which is a conversation for another time), and the Flyers are a hockey team. Smith's association first started with them during the Vietnam War, when crowds would boo the National Anthem before games. As a solution, they would play her recording of God Bless America, which got a great reception. One thing led to another and she became like the team's unofficial mascot and would appear in person to perform the song. Unfortunately, I don't think this would have happened if she had a stronger legacy.

Re: The Beatles medley with Cher and Tina Turner- How many performers can you think of who peaked four decades before who were willing to be that contemporary and didn't look like an old fool doing it? It's a shame she wasn't able to continue her career. 

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Freddie2    867

https://deadline.com/2019/06/lillian-gish-birth-of-a-nation-bowling-green-state-university-name-removal-1202636690/

Here we go again. Bowling Green has taken the Gish Sisters' names off of a University theater due to Lilian's being a cast member in Birth of a Nation. This makes me especially sad because I've always had wonderful feelings about Lilian Gish. For someone who came to prominence as a Silent actress, nobody speaks more eloquently or with more passion about the movies than she does. Her AFI acceptance speech is a real treat. 

Birth of a Nation was a prominent element of Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman last year, and he received the Lilian and Dorothy Gish Prize in 2013. In his acceptance speech, especially thanked Lilian for being a part of two of the films that helped shape him the most during film school- Birth of a Nation and Night of The Hunter, so take that as you may. 

About fifty Hollywood figures including Helen Mirren, Martin Scorcese, James Earl Jones, and Malcolm McDowell signed a letter decrying the decision. BGSU responded by saying that they won't reverse their decision. However, they are retaining Lilian's honorary degree, the scholarship in her name, and all of the archival collections, papers, and money she donated to the school.

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Luvsbway    2,090

This is getting ridiculous. I bet most of the people who complained probably never even saw the movie. 

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RodMcK1    60

When you apply today's standards to actions that occurred more than 100 years ago, very very few people could pass that test.  Some of the extremists appear to want to erase history.  We'll have our own "cultural revolution."

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Freddie2    867

I mean, there is absolutely no denying or making excuses for the fact that Birth of a Nation is objectively, blatantly racist (even "for the time") and its success had horrific repercussions that still last to this day. As far as I've seen, Gish never made any blatant statements about Civil Rights and never denounced her association with the movie. She never hesitated to put Griffith on a pedestal throughout her whole life, but he did kind of give her a career and help to pioneer the industry and art form she was so passionate about. Despite the backlash at the time (the NAACP boycotted the movie), it wasn't until fairly recently that the general consensus has fully condemned BOAN- for example, when Gish presented Best Picture at the 1981 Oscars, Johnny Carson spoke only of the movie in his introduction of Gish. So if the public didn't have that much of a problem with it, then how can we blame her? 

I know this has been a bit of a rant, but it seems so cut and dry to me and I've always had such a deep appreciation for Gish that I feel like talking about it. I actually have a friend who attends BGSU and next time I see her I'll be sure and ask if she's aware of the situation. She certainly has never heard of any of the long-dead people involved with the controversy.

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