Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Scientific Accuracy in Film - Neil deGrasse Tyson Reacts to Negative Reactions to His Reviews of Science Fiction Films Scientific Accuracy in Film - Neil deGrasse Tyson Reacts to Negative Reactions to His Reviews of Science Fiction Films 'Chocolate City' Finally Gets a Trailer + Release Date Set (Might It Steal Some of 'Magic Mike's' Summer Thunder?) 'Chocolate City' Finally Gets a Trailer + Release Date Set (Might It Steal Some of 'Magic Mike's' Summer Thunder?) Barbie Is Honoring Ava DuVernay (and Other "Sheroes") With Her Very Own Doll. Have a Look... Barbie Is Honoring Ava DuVernay (and Other "Sheroes") With Her Very Own Doll. Have a Look... BET Unveils 2015-2016 Slate Additions: New Original Scripted & Unscripted Series, Movies, News Specials & More BET Unveils 2015-2016 Slate Additions: New Original Scripted & Unscripted Series, Movies, News Specials & More Jada Pinkett Smith's Fish Mooney Will Return to 'Gotham' Streets with a New Look & Tougher Than Ever Jada Pinkett Smith's Fish Mooney Will Return to 'Gotham' Streets with a New Look & Tougher Than Ever Mo'Nique Presents Email Evidence That Shows She Was in Contention for the Role of Cookie in 'Empire' Mo'Nique Presents Email Evidence That Shows She Was in Contention for the Role of Cookie in 'Empire' Films & TV Series Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix's Streaming Library In May Films & TV Series Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix's Streaming Library In May James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson Will Share a Stage Again in a Revival of 'The Gin Game' James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson Will Share a Stage Again in a Revival of 'The Gin Game' Watch: Michael Jackson’s Movie Career Summed Up in 7 Minutes Watch: Michael Jackson’s Movie Career Summed Up in 7 Minutes Watch First Trailer for 'Desperate Housewives - Africa' + Individual Character Profiles Watch First Trailer for 'Desperate Housewives - Africa' + Individual Character Profiles Watch Trailer for Jordan Davis Documentary, '3 1/2 Minutes.' Coming to HBO This Fall Watch Trailer for Jordan Davis Documentary, '3 1/2 Minutes.' Coming to HBO This Fall Here Are the Cities & Theaters in Which Patrik-Ian Polk's Award-Winning Drama 'Blackbird' Will Open Here Are the Cities & Theaters in Which Patrik-Ian Polk's Award-Winning Drama 'Blackbird' Will Open Trailer: Pilot Project 'First Gen' (The Trials and Tribulations of Being a First Gen Nigerian-American) Trailer: Pilot Project 'First Gen' (The Trials and Tribulations of Being a First Gen Nigerian-American) Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? What to Expect in Season 2 of 'Empire' (Less Opulence; Spike Lee May Direct, Oprah May Guest-Star, More) What to Expect in Season 2 of 'Empire' (Less Opulence; Spike Lee May Direct, Oprah May Guest-Star, More) Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Whoopi Goldberg & Daughter Alex Martin Enter Reality TV Series Ring Whoopi Goldberg & Daughter Alex Martin Enter Reality TV Series Ring Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

Esther Rolle Flashback : "They Never Got Beyond Me As A Maid... In The Mainstream"

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 10, 2011 at 7:49AM

Fitting and timely recognition of the late Esther Rolle posted today on The Hollywood Reporter, considering today's release of the polarizing Viola Davis feature film, The Help.
8

Fitting and timely recognition of the late Esther Rolle posted today on The Hollywood Reporter, considering today's release of the polarizing Viola Davis feature film, The Help.

The piece reminded me of a survey I posted back in April titled Thinking Of "The Help"... Films Exploring Black Maid/White Employer Relationship, in which I asked you all to name films in cinema history that focused specifically on the black maid/white female employer relationship, told intentionally from the maid's POV, or, at least, gives us a complete and complex representation of her.

The were few responses, because there have been so few films that fit the criteria. I mentioned Ousmane Sembene's La Noire De (aka Black Girl) as a good example, to start things off.

No that The Hollywood Reporter piece adds much to satisfy, but it does alert the reader to a film in which Esther Rolle co-starred in, titled Summer Of my German Soldier, set during WWII, in which she plays a housekeeper to a young 13-year-old Southern Jewish girl caught in a doomed relationship with a German soldier.

I haven't seen the film, which was based on a book of the same name; this is the first I'm actually hearing about it. It was a made-for-TV movie that aired in 1978 on NBC.

The Hollywood Reporter didn't care for it though, calling the material promising, but the script weak, and that the film failed to live up to expectations.

I'll have to give this one a look. Apparently, Rolle's role ("a loving housekeeper who becomes the girl's only confidante") was meaty and solid enough that she won an Emmy Award in the Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or Special category.

But good luck finding it on home video, where it only exists in VHS format. I couldn't even find a proper trailer or clips of it.

THR does mention Rolle's career highlight, though it would be playing yet another domestic (prior to the above movie) - this time as maid Florida Evans on the early/mid 1970s comedy sitcom Maude, and its spinoff Good Times - a role that she'll likely always be remembered for.

She would eventually leave Good Times because, as THR notes, she took issue with Jimmie Walker's J.J. portrayal, saying that she did not "agree to do a clown show to degrade young black men." And this was after she already expressed reservations about continuing on with the series after husband James (played by John Amos) was killed in a car accident, because it would mean the family would go on without a father, which didn't jive with her original attraction to the series was - the presentation of a black family lead by a strong black father.

Aaahhh yes... there goes that whole burden of representation thing popping up again... except this was over 30 years ago.

This article is related to: Things That Make You Go Hmm..., Flashback


Shadow & ActNewsletter