‘Pinky’ and the Origins of Interracial Oscar-Bait

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-03-03 17:36Z by Steven

‘Pinky’ and the Origins of Interracial Oscar-Bait

Bitch Flicks

Hannah Graves
Department of History
University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom

This guest post by Hannah Graves appears as part of our theme week on Interracial Relationships.

Twentieth Century-Fox’s Pinky is far from the first Hollywood feature film that depicts an interracial relationship. Despite the evolution of various censorship codes that forbid depicting “miscegenation,” Hollywood has a rich history of mining the salacious or elicit potential from interracial pairing on screen, from Broken Blossoms to Duel in the Sun, Showboat to Imitation of Life. Yet, Pinky was quite distinct in tone from the films that came before it.

Produced by Fox’s studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck, Pinky was part of a spate of post-war social problem films that earnestly sought to address topical issues. Studios promoted these films as evidence that their medium was maturing, littering their advertising with exaggerated claims about the power of their pictures. As one of Pinky’s screenwriters, Phil Dunne, wrote in a New York Times article, “What we say and do on the screen in productions of this sort can affect the happiness, the living conditions, even the physical safety of millions of our fellow citizens.” Pinky is best understood at the starting point for a new Hollywood trajectory for interracial relationships onscreen: the worthy Oscar-bait drama that claims to enlighten as it entertains and serves as a conduit for fostering tolerance in the presumed white audience. It is a tradition that informs films from A Patch of Blue and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner to Monster’s Ball and the forthcoming Loving

Read the entire article here.

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