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Summary

Fred Parker stars as Rastus, a man who couldn't shine as a movie star so he shined as a boot-black. Parker made 142 films but was uncredited in most. This was his first film and is most unusual in that even though Parker was white he is seen here playing a black cowboy. The film was also released as A CHOCOLATE COWBOY. This film features actors performing in blackface. Fandor does not condone racist stereotyping, but blackface is nonetheless a significant aspect of American history in general and film history specifically. Early cinema was deeply rooted in vaudeville, where blackface was a popular staple. As film critic Ty Burr wrote in a recent assessment of Al Jolson’s THE JAZZ SINGER, “Minstrelsy was the then-accepted cultural mechanism by which the governing white culture could appropriate and tame various representations of black people.” The history of blackface is complex (even African American performers donned burnt cork to appear onstage in the early 1900s), and its legacy is far from being resolved. While blackface iconography appears offensive today, it remains deeply telling of the culture from which it emerged.

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