Blackhawk, Black Hollywood and Corrupt Hollywood: books read (#SFWApro)

SHOWCASE PRESENTS BLACKHAWK collects DC’s first few years of the Blackhawk series after buying the rights from Quality (as DC wasn’t heavily anticommunist, the Fight The Reds scripts in the first couple of issues are presumably carried over). The art by Dick Dillin and Chuck Cuidera (who provided the cover) is nice, but the stories are generic: alien monsters alternating with cunning crooks and actual supervillains (the Jailer, the Net, the Sniper). A bigger problem is that even when they get a good idea (super-marksman the Sniper is good as Deadshot-type foe) they’re crowded by a team of seven heroes who have no personalities, only accents (German, American, French, Swedish, etc.). And Chop-Chop, now a team member rather than the cook, is still an embarrassing racist portrayal, squeakingly timid and ineffective. By contrast, the team’s hawk mascot, Blackie, is so smart and plucky he’s almost a parody of animal sidekicks. What’s really remarkable though is that such a mediocre book could sell well enough in the Silver Age to run another decade before DC had to reboot it.

BRIGHT BOULEVARDS, BOLD DREAMS: The Story of Black Hollywood by Donald Bogle looks at the black presence in Hollywood from the 1910s through the 1950s, covering the social (the cool hangouts, the A-list celebs and the main Negro neighborhoods), the available jobs (some blacks became servants or shoe-shine men, then broke into movies, others just networked to be maids or butlers for bigger white stars), the presence in race films and the mainstream (Lena Horne was a ground-breakers, being both light-skinned and sophisticated enough to work MGM rather than a blackcentric studio) and the frustrations (getting shut out of tech unions, light-skinned blacks having to “black up” with makeup). An interesting look at a movie world I don’t know much about it; a bit film-magazine at times (look at Hattie McDaniels’ awesome house!) but that’s justifiable, as those things were a measure of the actors making it in the mainstream.

Ever since catching Hail Caesar! with Josh Brolin as MGM “fixer” Eddie Mannix I’ve been curious to read about the real guy (who I knew was notably nastier) So part of my Christmas gift certificates went for THE FIXERS: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling and the MGM Publicity Machine by EJ Fleming, which seems to be the book on the subject. Fleming details how Strickling and Mannix kept Hollywood looking clean by forcing gay stars into sham marriages, covering up hit-and-runs, and turning a murder into a suicide, and discrediting and smearing Patricia Douglas, an extra who was raped at an MGM business function. Unfortunately, I found Fleming’s work severely flawed: he presents some scandals (gay, adulterous, violent assaults, drug use — surprisingly none of the interracial relationships mentioned in Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams) as proven fact when they’re still in dispute and he drags in waaaay too much extraneous material — the history of Hollywood, the biography of every star (Blossom Rock of The Addams Family being sister to Jeanette McDonald is hardly relevant to the topic). Still worth getting (I already started a fantasy story involving Mannix) but unsatisfying.

All rights to cover image remain with current holder.

1 Comment

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One response to “Blackhawk, Black Hollywood and Corrupt Hollywood: books read (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Black movies, but no black panther: films watched | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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