MovieChat Forums > The Prisoner of Shark IslandĀ (1936) Discussion > Movie played up to racial stereotypes

Movie played up to racial stereotypes


The movie would have been a true masterpiece had it not portrayed black soldiers as bumbling,illiterate fools. But that's how America wanted to view African-Americans as at that time. How sad.

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Well it was made in 1936. And not only would the black soldiers of the time most certainly have been illiterate but so would a great deal of the white soldiers.

Ernest Whitman's character was also given unprecedented amounts of screen time and importance to the story. If you want an insightful and considered view of race portrayal in this (and other films) you should see the interview with David Ehrenstein on the UK dvd.

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As illiterate character would have been one thing - but here they are played as fearful, undependable, with the only exception being the noble black man who helped the Confederate conspirator try to escape. Dr. Mudd is seen as emotionally attached to this man. This part was beyond the real history of the escape.

Overall, this film was driven by Southern sentiments, warping history and creating illogical scenes to build up the drama. And some people complained that Hollywood was being run by Jewish interests! To see so many of the pop films, from Griffith onward, who would rewrite black-white relations and US history, would show who really had power in Tinseltown.




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As someone who really enjoys studying the Civil War period, I found this movie absolutely fascinating, as I did not know Mr. Ford had made it. I hope to be able to find it on DVD and watch it again.

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[deleted]

No, this isn't how America wanted to view blacks at that time but it is how Hollywood wanted to view them. To take the actions of a few and to apply them to a larger group is called stereotyping and the offender usually has egg on his face.

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