by Chris Bodenner
A classic from my childhood is Holiday Inn. It’s a beautiful movie with Bing Crosby, the first movie he sang “White Christmas” in, and it also starts Fred Astaire. It has clever, hilarious, romantic, top-notch Irving Berlin numbers, fabulous dancing, and … a scene in blackface [watch an unembeddable version here]. The movie was played on TV constantly every holiday season when I was growing up, and AMC still plays it, but with the infamous scene cut. But the thing is, it’s a crucial plot device that moves the storyline, so there is a point where you literally have no idea what is going on. If that scene weren’t done the way it was, it would be up there today with It’s A Wonderful Life. Instead of Holiday Inn, we get stuck every year with that “classic” polished turd White Christmas! Why? Not racist.
If you want an amazing children’s book that has a brown, female protagonist and was written in 1939, read The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward to your kid for Easter next year.
If you think that scene from Holiday Inn is bad, watch this clip of Bing Crosby in blackface singing “Dixie” – Dixie! Update from a reader:
Let’s not forget the early Bing work with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra, singing “Mississippi Mud” with the original lyrics: “the darkies beat their feet on the Mississippi Mud” rather than the later, non-offensive “the people beat their feet on the Mississippi Mud.”