In honor of Black History Month, I’ll be featuring films either starring or representing African American themes.
My first film for the month is “Hollywood Shuffle” (1987) directed by and starring Robert Townsend. More than 25 years ago, this small, low-budget movie caught the fascination of movie viewers across the country. And it just happens to be one of my favorite films.
The story revolves around aspiring actor Bobby Taylor (Robert Townsend) trying to break into Hollywood. His troubles lie not with his talent, but the stereotypical roles that he’s asked to play. “Hollywood Shuffle” takes a satiric look at African American actors in Hollywood.
Accepting the lead role in a typical blaxploitation movie, Bobby dreams about what it would be like if African Americans were respected as legitimate actors in roles from Sam Spade to Shakespeare to superheroes. He just has to convince Hollywood that gangstas, slaves and “Eddie Murphy-types” aren’t the sum of his talents.
With his little brother looking up to him and his grandmother proclaiming “there’s work at the post office”, Bobby faces the dilemma of, art or dignity.
For me, I have to go along with grandma, “there’s work at the post office”.
We’ve come a long way in 29 years but as I always say: “We’ve come a long way but we’ve still got a long way to go”!
In Robert Townsend’s own words: