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Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solidly crafted work on an enigmatic Black woman, 13 Aug. 2008
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This review is from: Butterfly McQueen Remembered (Paperback)
Butterfly McQueen's biographer Stephen Bourne may not "know nuthin' `bout birthin' babies" but delivers a damned good biography on the neglected Afro-American actor who is finally receiving the critical attention for her unique contribution to American cinema.

Solidly written with meticulously researched information, rare stills and personal correspondences, Bourne maps Thelma, alias "Butterfly" McQueen's life from her humble beginnings in the pre-Civil Rights South, to a brief Hollywood career in the 1940s, historical neglect, and her tragic death in 1995.

Bourne pulls all into perspective and reveals a talented but unfulfilled actor who was frustrated and denied by larger systems and institutions, an altruistic survivor who later became anti-poverty activist.

McQueen admits that in her early years she knew little about slavery or Black militancy. Like many other Black actors of the period, she was compliant with the Hollywood system, not militant, or always critically conscious of Hollywood's filmmaking practices. Thus, like many other Black actors, she became complicit and "trapped" within the white hegemonic constructs of Hollywood filmmaking. She could not see, of course, the long-term ideological effects her performances would have on future actors and Black female representation.

Bourne openly discusses Hollywood racism and white privilege that limited McQueen's Hollywood chances and those of contemporaries Theresa Harris and Jeni Le Gon.

Bourne discusses in substantial length Gone with the Wind's troubled production history, the behind-the-scenes of Black resistance, and the critical reception of "Prissy", McQueen's controversial character. Bourne uses this chapter to make poignant statements about Black - Jewish race relations in America.

All Black actors working in Hollywood should read Bourne's biographies on McQueen and Ethel Waters (2007). Film historians and anti-racist educators should place these works as staples on Black History booklists.

It is a solidly crafted work on an enigmatic Black woman.

Joseph Worrell

Toronto, Canada
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