Let’s make a political movie about an movie star turned politician, and make up a whole lotta [bleep].
“Lee Daniels’ The Butler’” stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, a fictional character supposedly based on Eugene Allen’s real life.
But let’s compare the two White House butlers.
Guess which one grew up in segregated Virginia, got a job at the White House and rose to become maître d’hôtel, the highest position in White House service?
Guess which one had a happy, quiet life and was married to the same woman for 65 years? And who had one son who served honorably in Vietnam and never made a peep of protest through the pre- and post-civil rights era?
Now guess which butler grew up on a Georgia farm, watched the boss rape his mother and then, when his father protested the rape, watched the boss put a bullet through his father’s head?
Guess which butler feels the pain of America’s racial injustices so deeply that he quits his White House job and joins his son in a protest movement?
And guess which butler has a wife (Oprah Winfrey) who becomes an alcoholic and has a cheap affair with the guy next door? (I’m surprised it wasn’t the vice president.)
After comparing Hollywood’s absurd version of Eugene Allen’s life story with the truth, you wonder why the producers didn’t just call it “The Butler from Another Planet.”
Movies of happy marriages lasting 65 years are not big box office, you have to admit.
And Hollywood fair to America’s last conservative president (and first since Calvin Coolidge)? Are you kidding?
Portraying Ronald Reagan as a racist because he was in favor of lifting economic sanctions against South Africa is simplistic and dishonest.
If you knew my father, you’d know he was the last person on Earth you would call a racist.
If Strong had gotten his “facts” from the Reagan biographies, he’d have learned that when my father was playing football at Eureka College one of his best friends was a black teammate.
Strong also would have learned that my father invited black players home for dinner and once, when two players were not allowed to stay in the local hotel, he invited them to stay overnight at his house.
Screenwriter Strong also might have found out that when my father was governor of California he appointed more blacks to positions of power than any of his predecessors — combined.
It’s appalling to me that someone is trying to imply my father was a racist. He and Nancy and the rest of the Reagan family treated Mr. Allen with the utmost respect.
It was Nancy Reagan who invited the butler to dinner — not to work but as guest. And it was my father who promoted Mr. Allen to maître d’hôtel.
If you want to see a great Forrest Whitaker film, skip this dreck. Last King of Scotland is the one for you. Charming and terrifying, endearing and loathsome—what a performance.
PS: If inviting black teammates over for dinner once sounds underwhelming, remember this was the late 20s, early 30s. As a sports fan, I can tell you that there’s precious little social mixing between whites, blacks, latinos today.
PPS: Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan: what else do you need to know?