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Hollywood Shuffle Movie Review

townsend wayans film black

Hollywood Shuffle created quite a splash when it was first released in 1987. Not only did it offer a funny and accurate perspective of what it's like to be a young black actor eking out a living in the film business, but it also supplied other wannabe directors with tremendous inspiration. Robert Townsend, who wrote, directed, and starred in the film, had previously played a supporting role in A Soldier's Story. He put his salary for that film, plus every line of credit he could max out from his credit cards, and somehow assembled the $100,000 to produce Hollywood Shuffle. (Well, how had John Cassavetes started out? By using his salary for the television series Johnny Staccato.) Townsend's film looks more expensive than it is, because of the cleverness of the concept and because of the talented cast, including the Wayans Brothers, Damon and co-writer Keenen Ivory, plus Townsend himself. One of the best satirical sequences gives us a glimpse of the Black Actors School in which white teachers show black actors how to be black actors and to play such exciting, fully dimensional characters as pimps, whores, rapists, and other stereotypical criminals. Townsend became a hot property overnight, subsequently directing Eddie Murphy: Raw and B.A.P.S. and writing, directing, and starring in The Five Heartbeats and The Meteor Man. The Wayans Brothers became household names and opportunities for black actors on film increased dramatically over the next decade.

1987 (R) 81m/C Robert Townsend, Anne-Marie Johnson, Starletta DuPois, Helen Martin, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Damon Wayans, Craigus R. Johnson, Eugene Glazer; D: Robert Townsend; W: Robert Townsend, Keenen Ivory Wayans; C: Peter Deming; M: Patrice Rushen, Udi Harpaz. VHS, LV

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