Imitation of Life
At 52 years of age, and a child of the civil rights movement, I just saw Imitation of Life (1934 version) for the first time. Subsequently I did a little Internet research on the African-American cast members, and the so-called tragic mulatto theme of the movie. Which brought me to your Jim Crow museum website. First, I'd like to thank you for your contribution to the museum, and for making it available on the web. It's a great reference.
However, having just watched the movie, I'd like to take exception with your comments regarding Louise Beavers' (Aunt Delilah) character's statement - "I gives it to you. I makes you a present of it" as being among the most pathetic ever delivered by a Black actor. I think given that the character was content with her circumstances, wanted to continue to live with her employer, and by her own choice was not interested in finance, her decision and statements were far from pathetic. I also don't view her statements as a negative stereotype. I think they would only be negative if you look at her as not being able to reason and make decisions for herself. Her character was clearly driven by spiritual considerations and not money. I personally found her character to be someone I could sympathize and/or empathize with. From what I saw, she had no reason to be distrustful of her employer, and had no pressing financial concerns. Additionally, I don't recall her placing her family second to her employer's. Delilah was a gentle and forgiving person, who spiritually was equal to if not ahead of all the other characters.
I understand the stereotype (domestic) that people may attach to Ms. Beavers' character. However, if you scratch her character's surface, there's much more to her Delilah than just a simple stereotype.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and thanks again for the website.
-- Feb. 28, 2006
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