The Black Kino Fist: Black life as depicted in film history

Pinky (1949)

On Pinky, 20th Century-Fox head of production Darryl F. Zanuck wrote, "This is not a story about how to solve the Negro problem in the South or anywhere else. This is not a story particularly about race problems, segregation or discrimination. This is a story about one particular Negro girl who could easily pass as a white and who did pass for a while. This is the story of how and why she, as an individual, finally decided to be herself – a Negress." His public stance was that the film was intended purely as entertainment, "I don't believe you could ever get me to read a book which was strictly about segregation of Negroes in America. Factual as it might be, I simply would not be bothered with it, and I am sure 99% of the American people would feel the same way." 
African-American critics deplored the casting of Jeanne Crain (a white actress) in the role that Lena Horne had wanted, as well as noting that the studio couldn't seem to decide whether the film was "pro-Negro or follow[ing] the same old Hollywood trends in dealing with the subject." As a rebuttal, Philip Dunne wrote a piece entitled "Approach to Racism" in The New York Times stating that the film rejected "the long-standing taboo against films dealing with the problems of racial and religious prejudice." Crain herself said "So many people have told me not to stir anything up that I feel we've got to really move them into feeling for Pinky and her problems." 
Elia Kazan may not have delivered another Gentleman's Agreement for Fox, but he did help Jeanne Crain get an Oscar® nomination for Best Actress, and Ethel Barrymore and Ethel Waters nominations as Best Supporting Actress. For him, "[T]he most memorable thing about making that picture was the party at the end of shooting. Ethel Waters had been so sweet, kissing me all the time and telling me how much she loved me and how grateful she was to me. She and I got drunk, and I said, 'Ethel, you don't really like any white man do you?' And she said, 'I don't like any of them. I'd never trust any of 'em.' When she got drunk she told the truth, and I liked her better for it. I thought, 'I don't blame her. I can understand that.' 
- Lorraine LoBianco for TCM
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