Looking back through the early examples of whitewashing in Hollywood it’s hard to believe that people gave those productions the go ahead.
They actually looked at people wearing ridiculously ludicrous blackface and yellow face and thought “Hm, yes, now my movie can be made well and truly!”. I mean I know it was the 60s, but it’s not like they didn’t have eyes and maybe a brain.
Check out three examples of whitewashed non-white characters in films that would come to be considered Hollywood classics!
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the 1961 Audrey Hepburn romance.
I loved this film as soon as I saw it but Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Holly Golightly’s asian landlord never sat right with me.
They allowed Mickey Rooney to make a joke of Chinese people through the yellow face, buck teeth, and his unflattering put-on voice and accent. Classic.
2. Othello, made in 1965 and starring british actor Laurence Olivier.
Laurence Olivier is a legend, but I can’t be the only one who thinks he looks STUPID. What’s even worse is that the film was made during the American Civil Rights movement and Sydney Poitier, (he would win an award shortly) would have been perfect, but oh well. Classic.
3. Cleopatra, 1963, starring Elizabeth Taylor.
I mean…. Really? The last pharaoh of Egypt would not have been this white. Sure she was probably an inbred ptolemaic greek woman, but her lineage is also shady af. But… really? This white?
Whitewashing is a Hollywood Classic that is still in practice today. Over 50 years later. It is a dumb thing.
In the next post I’ll explore more modern examples of whitewashing. Because, you know, representation is still an issue in 2016.