The Portrait of Lady Anne
In 1770, the beautiful Lady Anne in a jealous fit throws over her lover who goes away to the war and is killed. Fast forward to 1912 where a descendant of Lady Anne is entertaining and much the same happens. A fantasy of romance and jealousy across 200 years. Sets are, in 1912, becoming more realistic, sometimes even layered (with glimpses into other rooms in the background). Though still not willing to identify (much less promote) their popular players, the theater-savvy Thanhousers were willing to hire the most elaborate and picturesque costumes in New York City. 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.