On this day in comedy on March 20, 1987, Hollywood Shuffle was released by The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Produced, directed, and co-written by Robert Townsend, this film is a satirical attack on Hollywood’s systematic stereotyping of blacks in the media. Townsend financed the indie with his own credit cards and used the storyline of a struggling black actor interspersed with vignettes to illustrate his point. There’s scenes of slavery, popular films, movie reviewers and more as Townsend’s character’s imagination lets us in on his conflict in being an underused and often degraded minority in the world of entertainment.
Hollywood Shuffle is about Bobby Taylor (Townsend) having to decide to take a cooning part in a black gang film. His grandmother is against it. His mother supports him, but she is also against cooning. His co-workers and boss couldn’t care less if he coons or not. They don’t think he’ll ever make it as an actor anyway and he needs to keep his mind on his job at Winky Dinky Dog. They’re wrong. He gets the coveted role and finds out he can’t do it. It’s too much cooning. So, he takes his grandmother’s advice and gets a job working for the post office. He does a commercial for USPS.
This comedy classic was co-written by Keenan Ivory Wayans and co-produced by Dom Irrera, Hollywood Shuffle features Anne-Marie Johnson, John Witherspoon, Brad Sanders, Helen Martin, Eugene Robert Glazer and Paul Mooney.
The film was a critical and box office success. It won the 1987 Deauville Film Festival Grand Special Prize Critics Award and Coup de Coeur LTC Award for Robert Townsend and made $5,228,617 on a $100,000 budget.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
Check out this clip: