Hispanic Heritage Month - Latinos in American Cinema

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 26, 2009 01:51pm | Post a Comment

Aside from a brief fetish for Latin Lovers in the silent era, roles for Hispanics and Latinos in American silent film were few, far between and generally quite minor. In the sound era, images of Hispanics and Latinos in Hollywood began to increase in number, although Latino characters were at first usually portrayed by non-Latinos in brownface whilst real Latinos were frequently used as all-purpose ethnic types.

Ramon Novarro and Lupe Velez in The Laughing Boy  Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo
          Ramon Novarro and Lupe Velez (as Navaho) in Laughing Boy                                Leo Carrillo and Duncan Renaldo

In the first decade of sound, there weren't many roles for Hispanics or Latinos aside from in popular, long-running series like Zorro, The Cisco Kid and The Mexican Spitfire series, the latter a vehicle for Lupe Velez. Pedro Armendáriz mostly starred in Mexican films; when cast in American ones, he invariably had to exaggerate his accent sufficiently. Throughout the '30s and the following decade, Arizona-born Chris Pin-Martin appeared in almost eighty films, invariably as a heavily-accented, broken English-speaking Mexican in small roles and as sidekicks, like Pancho in the Cisco Kid movies and as Gordito in the Zorro series. The Zorro franchise, begun in the 20s, continued to be popular throughout the era. The Cisco Kid series dated back to the teens. In them, unlike with Zorro, Hispanic actors like Leo Carrillo, Duncan Ronaldo and Cesar Romero were usually cast in the lead. Hispanic actress Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Cansino) was initially billed as Rita Cansino in a series of unrelated B-movies. In them, she usually played a variation on the fiery Mexican maiden in need of an honorable Anglo's protection and love.

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Silencio! - The Hispanic & Latino experience in the silent era

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 19, 2009 02:26pm | Post a Comment
Like other minorities in Hollywood (e.g. Asians, blacks, gays, Natives and women, to name a few), Hispanics and Latinos in the silent film era were almost exclusively produced by people who had little or no first hand experience of their subjects. But whilst Latinos may've been almost entirely excluded from the filmmaking process, a handful of actors found work in front of the camera and in the process opened doors for the generations that followed.

In film's first decade, a few Latinos in fact were involved in American filmmaking. Before the Hollywood era, the filmmaking process wasn't centralized and films were shot around the country by wealthy entrepreneurs, a few of which were Hispanic. However, most American films in the 1890s were under ten minutes long and tended to focus on single actions like sneezing, laughing or opening a door.

Though film roles in the 1890s tended to avoid any minority issues, there were a few minorities in film. In 1903, the first version of Uncle Tom's Cabin hit the screen and went on to be the most frequently adapted story in the silent era, suggesting that there was at least concern about black issues, if not other minorities. In the teens, with films like A Woman Scorned, The Squaw Man, Intolerance and The Italian, depictions of minorities broadened considerably.

On the margins' margins - Asian Latinos - Latasian 101

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 15, 2009 12:35pm | Post a Comment
A common misconception about Latinos they are a racially homogeneous people. In Los Angeles and elsewhere, the word "Mexican" is used to refer to pretty much anyone who looks like they may have roots south of the Rio Grande, regardless of country of origin. I assume the same goes for Puerto Ricans and Cubans in areas where they dominate, although I'm not sure. I've heard the Honduran Latino population of New Orleans described as "Mexican" by more than one person.

Barrio Chino, Habana, Cuba
Habana, Cuba

This misconception is, ironically, inadvertently furthered by many Latinos themselves. Though the concepts of “brown pride” and “La Raza,” are used to instill pride in Chicanos, mestizos, or those with Spanish ancestry (depending on how they’re applied), at the same time they effectively marginalize Latinos with African and Asian ancestry, despite their being no less Latino by definition. Furthermore, in the 2006 US Census, 48% of Latinos described themselves as white/European-American. Only 6% described themselves as of "two or more races." In fact, the majority of Latinos are clearly of mixed, partially indigenous heritage. The census question may be a trick, since, as most people know, any actual white person will steadfastly self-identify as Native American, claiming a great-great-great grandparent who was (usually) Cherokee.

Japanese Brazilians

What distinguishes countries in the New World from those in the Old is that here there's no such thing as a Nation-State and no countries in the western hemisphere correspond to a single ethinicity. Just as is the case in Anglo America (The Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Guyana, Jamaica, the United States and the Virgin Islands), there are Latinos whose race is Asian, black, Native, white or a combination thereof. In observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins today, the focus of this blog on Asian Latinos aims to highlight just one example of the under-recognized heterogeneity of Latino culture.

Coffee Bar films - Between skiffle and beat, a short-lived scene percolated

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 10, 2009 02:08pm | Post a Comment
2 i's

In the 1950s, Britiain's teenagers were exposed to a lot more American culture than they were perhaps previously used to. Disparate strains of American culture including beatniks, teenage rebellionrock 'n' roll and coffee all got mashed up in one slightly confused and frothy concoction. Leather-favoring motorcycle enthusiasts who embraced the scene were labeled coffee bar cowboys. F

or the aspiring juvenile delinquents and those just out for kicks, alcohol was suddenly the choice of squares and java joe was the way to go, dad! Soon, the English were brewing their own strain of rock 'n' roll in Soho "caffs" (most famously, The 2 i's). Of course, as with any proper youth movement, exploitation films inevitably followed.

The Tommy Steele Story (1957)

"He traveled the world listening to the musical heartbeat of people everywhere and he came home with his head and heart full of songs that captivate all who hear."

The Golden Disc (1958)

Serious Charge (1959)

>Examine text adventure - Ask will Generation Text revive the popularity of text-based adventures?

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 6, 2009 02:37pm | Post a Comment

Like silent films, old time radio, male grooming and slide shows, the text-based game is a largely dead art form. Like the other examples, it's uniquely enjoyable and was snuffed out by its flashier, less imaginative offspring in the pursuit of realism and technology. (Don't get me wrong, I think GUIs are la mamá de Tarzán and I even crossed the security line at Xerox PARC on a nerd's tour of historic Silicon Valley to drink from the fountain where the Xerox Alto was born back in 1973.) But the quiet pleasures of text games are enjoyable in their own right and with a whole generation almost incapable of communicating through any means except texting, the text game seems ripe for a comeback.

Eamon screen shot  Zork

Instead of using graphics, text-based games use prose to tell the story. Players type specific commands to such as "go north" to play. A lot of the fun (and frustration) comes from having to type them precisely. For example, if you type "omg go north lol!!!," the computer will reply, "You used the word north in a way I don't understand." It may be frustrating at first to not punctuate every command with "lol," but once you get the hang of it, you'll find text games can be highly addictive. Besides, frustration puts hair on your chest.

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