Cine's Hollywood Walk of Fame Tour:
A History of Racism and Gender Bias
A History of Racism and Gender Bias
by Paulette Reynolds
February 10, 2015
February 10, 2015
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame...
Yes, dear readers, as the Oscar news shattered my solitary journey down Hollywood and Vine, I felt a bleak kinship to Mr. Poe - bleak, I tell you! Even my devoted assistant, Paulette, could not cheer me up with her bright patter, best left to another remake of Pollyanna. Was it true? Could it be believed?
Yes! Apparently the 87th Academy Awards had - once again - turned their backs upon women directors and minority actors. There was NOT ONE nomination in the acting categories, directing category, and only one slight nomination for Best Picture. Even the black female director of Selma, Ava DuVernay, was shunned.
Where could one go for solace? for a moment of comfort? for a ---
"Darling girl! Cine! It's me, Cesar!"
Cesar Romero's soft white tuxedo beckoned in the moonlight. "Cesar, dear friend - is that you?" To see a friendly face - and indeed one that Ms. Marlene Dietrich indiscreetly inferred to as "the undisputed queen of homosexuals" - acted like a salve upon my bruised and battered cinematic soul. "How can Hollywood be so cruel?"
Gazing at my befuddled frame, Cesar gestured at the stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and laughed, "This town has always been tough, honey - especially at Academy Awards time. Anyone that expects praise from the dueling studios is truly living in fantasy-land! Look - I have two Walk of Fame stars, for Motion Pictures and Television. I was never stereotyped as just a Latin lover because I played in so many pictures. I was more of a character actor...Hindus, Indians, Italians. Yet, there were very few pictures where I ended up with the girl."
"And of course, you were the original Joker of Batman fame, darling!" I began to take heart from Cesar's refusal to be stereotyped during his 60 year career, which also saw the birth of the Hollywood Walk of Fame began in 1953 and filmdom saw its first completed star enshrined in 1960. This famous tourist attraction now boasts over 2,000 stars, with 24 added yearly.
From a distance we could see another burst in white greeting us. "Hey, my latin lover, wait up!"
A vision in white pantsuits and snappy white shoes, director Dorothy Arzer clapped Cesar heartily on the shoulders. "Ah, I'm guessing you've heard the sordid news." Laughing, she smoothed her signature haircut and attempted to hug me - Me, CineMata! (who would be so reckless?).
"Doesn't it bother you that in 87 years, only one female director has won an Oscar?" I sniffed dramatically, deftly pulling away.
Ms. Arzner gave a contemptuous snort. "Look, the Academy is over 70% white and male, what can you expect, Cine?!"
"We can expect that we're looking at the former lover of Joan Crawford," smirked Cesar into my ear.
Sighing impatiently, the famous director, (who was once blackballed by Louis B. Mayer), dispassionately looked down at her star, glittering in the moonlight. "You know, Alice Guy-Blache, who was the first female director - of over 700 films - didn't wait around for anyone to give her a star or an Oscar. She created the largest pre-Hollywood studio, The Solax Company, back in the crazy days of filmmaking and left her own legacy."
"Where's her star?" Cine asked Cesar, as Dorothy glared at the famous Hollywood sign in the distant mist.
"She hasn't gotten one yet," Cesar shrugged, "Anyone can be nominated, but if you've died you have to wait five years after your death to be nominated. Like everything else in this town, the selection process is pretty secretive."
A voice laughed warmly, "So that means I have to wait five years before I can be nominated? Guess they want to make sure I'm really dead!"
"Yes, you've only been gone a year, Juanita - let's hope someone cares enough to nominate you in 2019," laughed Cesar. He quickly embraced Juanita Moore, who shook her head.
"You know, the more things change, the more they stay the same." Ms. Moore reflected. "Maybe we need to move beyond expecting this profit-driven industry to give us equality. Might have to take it upon ourselves to grow our own production companies into larger independent studios, like United Artists."
Dorothy nodded, "Well, I for one remember your incredible role in Imitation of Life (1959), as Annie Johnson - and so did the Academy - for once!"
"There were times I was so nervous the muscles were jumping in my face. I cried a lot in the making of this movie because it was real easy for me to cry. I had a lot to cry about. Conditions for black actors were unbelievable back then. Very few actors got the opportunity to hone their craft in the same way white actors did." She shook her head, "I didn't win the award, but my work IS the award, so to speak."
It was getting harder to see them, amid the glare of Cesar and Dorothy's bright ensembles. Cine sighed, "Yes, we shouldn't hold our breath, waiting for Juanita's star - after all, Claudia McNeil passed in 1993 and there's not one star for her - and she was both on the stage and screen."
Juanita's peaceful countenance grew stormy, "Lord, don't get me started! Not only was she ignored for her iconic portrayal in A Raisin in the Sun by the Academy, but so was the entire cast! Ruby Dee, Sidney Poitier, and Diana Sands helped raise this film up, so much so that it was selected for preservation by the America National Film Registry!"
Cesar patted her gently, "And to make matters worse - all the Oscar presenters honoring the 1961 films were white! I have to give it to my peers like Sessue Hayakawa and Anna May Wong. Sessue got so tired of being typecast that he formed his own production company, so he could make the kind of films he wanted."
Dorothy laughed, "Remember those parties - and that gold-plated Pierce-Arrow? Well, why not, he worked for it and for a time, he was as popular as John Barrymore."
"Yes, and the irony is," said Cesar, "later in his career he won an Oscar for playing a villain in The Bridge on the River Kwai - even though his one ambition was to play a hero." His sigh punctured their silence.
They found their way to the "Gateway to Hollywood" sculpture, on Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. Cesar looked up at Anna May Wong's figure, forever joined with Dolores del Río, Dorothy Dandridge and Mae West. "Anna gave them her best years, always playing the evil Dragon Lady or the passive Geisha types. It almost killed her when MGM gave the leading role of O-Lan in The Good Earth to Luise Rainer - a German!"
"And because of the anti-miscegenation laws, she couldn't really be a leading star, because she couldn't be seen kissing a white actor." said Dorothy. "The final insult for her was in 1931, when she was given the starring role in Daughter of the Dragon. Sessue received $10,000, Warner Oland $12,00 - and poor Anna? She got a measly $6,000!"
Cine's laughter pierced the grim silence. "Yes dears, not much changes in Hollywoodland - Sony studios was recently exposed for paying their A-list actresses less in paycheck and revenue points. And who got axed in that scandal? A woman, naturally!"
Flicking a trace of Hollywood soot off his pristine jacket, Cesar's voice trailed off, "Well, we hope Ms. Amy Pascal remember that to live well you must dress well, and never in the same outfit!" Puffing up like a peacock, he could be heard whispering to Dorothy and Claudia, "My closets hold 30 tuxedos, 200 sports jackets, and 500 suits you know..."
"Never let them get you down, eh, Cesar?" chuckled Dorothy.
And all the stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame seemed to sparkle in agreement.
Goldsea.com. THE 130 MOST INSPIRING ASIAN AMERICANS OF ALL TIME 02/10/2015
Hollywood Walk of Fame. http://HollywoodWalkofFame.com 02/10/2015
Karyn Kay and Gerald Peary. 07/16/2011. "Interview with Dorothy Arzner" 02/10/2015
Poe. E., A. (1845) The Raven. Retrieved. 02/10/2015.
Taylor, Derrick Bryson. 02/01/2014. "Imitation of Life Actress Juanita Moore Dies at 99".
COPYRIGHT 2012/2015. Paulette Reynolds. All CineMata Movie Madness blog articles, reviews, faux interviews, commentary, and the Cine Mata character are under the sole ownership of Paulette Reynolds. All intellectual and creative rights reserved.