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Small Steps - Big Strides: The Black Experience in Hollywood
Small Steps - Big Strides The Black Experience in Hollywood
Actors: Harry Belafonte, Donald Bogle, Diahann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge, Ruby Dee
Director: Velma Cato
Genres: Television, Documentary
NR     2006     0hr 58min

Louis Gossett Jr. takes viewers through a special documentary celebration of the groundbreaking achievements of African-American performers and their contributions to Hollywood filmmaking. Spectacular film clips, rare beh...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Harry Belafonte, Donald Bogle, Diahann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge, Ruby Dee
Director: Velma Cato
Creator: Mimi Freedman
Genres: Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Documentary
Studio: Image Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 01/24/2006
Original Release Date: 02/10/1998
Theatrical Release Date: 02/10/1998
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 0hr 58min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A very good documentary to depict the black person's struggl
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 04/04/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Small Step Big Strides: The Black Experience In Hollywood provides you with an accurate and moving retrospective of the history of blacks in the movies. Although this documentary is only a brief 58 minutes you learn a great deal about the ways black people were portrayed in movies since the early 1900s. This DVD uses rare footage and great interviews with stars of the day to flesh out the theme of racial prejudice against blacks in Hollywood as well as what black people had to do to overcome it.

Because of wide spread and deep seated racial prejudice, black people initially had to be content watching white actors in blackface depict them on the screen. The black characters were always reduced to the lowly positions of being a "mammy" or a rather ignorant, uneducated man.

However, black people took steps forward in early black films including MGM's Hallelujah and Hearts in Dixie by Fox in 1929. The documentary uses footage to show that blacks still had to stick to strict racial stereotypes even within these early all black cast movies.

This DVD then chronicles how things began to gradually improve for black actors. For example, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was the first black actor who could befriend a person of the opposite race when he danced with Shirley Temple; and Paul Robeson finally enjoyed a lead character role in The Emperor Jones.

Moreover, this DVD discusses in depth the two movies Stormy Weather and Cabin In The Sky. Stormy Weather was one of the first big budget musicals to feature an elegant all black cast. Black people were finally showcased as great entertainments with meaningful intellect and talent; the movie featured Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, the dancing Nicholas Brothers, Lena Horne and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. At the same time, MGM's Cabin In The Sky also starred Lena Horne and Duke Ellington. The DVD uses footage from these two films to demonstrate how, for the first time ever, blacks were taken very seriously in Hollywood. One of the surviving Nicholas brothers comments on this during his interview and what he has to say sheds extra light on this situation.

The DVD also uses footage to give examples of how, by the early 1950s, a black actor like Sidney Poitier was able to embody the true complexity of life in black America--as long as he was clean cut. Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte were soon the first black "hot" couple; and by the late 1960s there was the then rather daring Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. This movie took on the challenge of dealing with interracial marriage; but the DVD also shows how Guess Who's Coming To Dinner was done so as to offend as few people as possible.

By the late 1960s the DVD lets us see that Hollywood wanted to portray the more militant blacks who wanted action much, much sooner than later as in films like The Incident and The Great White Hope. The producers of the DVD choose excellent clips from both movies to make their points very well.

Despite the fact that this DVD was made in 1998, the commentary and footage end with films from the year 1970. I must take off one star for this because the constantly evolving black experience from 1970 until today receives no attention from this documentary.

All in all, Small Step Big Strides: The Black Experience In Hollywood tells the story of how blacks gradually made headway in Hollywood. They went from being completely passive observers of white actors in blackface to portraying human beings with complex characters, real human quirks and very heroic qualities. I highly recommend this documentary DVD for people who want to study the black experience in Hollywood. People who want to study the American black experience in general will also benefit from watching this documentary.
A Learning Experience.
Kameya shows | Ypsilanti, MI | 11/29/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This Movie provide my entire class with a look at the struggles and triumphs of African American performers. A lot of unknown facts were shows and I really enjoyed it."