Earlier this year, the streaming service HBO Max added an introduction to the 1939 classic “Gone With The Wind,” in which University of Chicago cinema professor Jacqueline Stewart discussed the film’s perspective on the Civil War-era South and its concomitant slavery.
Now, HBO Max has targeted the 1974 comedy classic “Blazing Saddles,” which was nominated for three Academy Awards, with another introduction by Stewart. An HBO spokesman told The Hollywood Reporter (THR), “The intro was added to ensure that the film was put into the proper social context.”
“Blazing Saddles,” directed by Mel Brooks, features the friendship between Cleavon Little’s black sheriff in an all-white town and Gene Wilder’s alcoholic gunslinger as they battle bigots and racists in the town in the old West. Stewart acknowledges in her introduction, “The storyline implies the issue of race is front and center in Blazing Saddles. And racist language and attitudes pervade the film. But those attitudes are espoused by characters who are portrayed here as explicitly small-minded, ignorant bigots. The real, and much more enlightened perspective, is provided by the main characters played by Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder.”
“It is unclear exactly when the intro was added to the 1974 comedy classic starring the late Cleavon Little and the late Gene Wilder, but it was sometime after the film premiered on the streaming service in July,” THR pointed out.
“Blazing Saddles” grossed $119.5 million at the domestic box office, only the 10th film up to that time to make over $100 million.
HBO Max told The Wall Street Journal in June that “Gone With The Wind” was a “product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society.”
Roughly two weeks before HBO Max added Stewart’s intro to “Gone With The Wind,” The Wall Street Journal reported that HBO Max had pulled the film from its streaming service, noting that the move came after John Ridley wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times calling for the movie to be pulled off the streaming service.
It is a film that, when it is not ignoring the horrors of slavery, pauses only to perpetuate some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color.
It is a film that, as part of the narrative of the “Lost Cause,” romanticizes the Confederacy in a way that continues to give legitimacy to the notion that the secessionist movement was something more, or better, or more noble than what it was — a bloody insurrection to maintain the “right” to own, sell and buy human beings.
The movie had the very best talents in Hollywood at that time working together to sentimentalize a history that never was. And it continues to give cover to those who falsely claim that clinging to the iconography of the plantation era is a matter of “heritage, not hate.”
“Disney has deployed content notices on its own streaming service since it launched, warning viewers about ‘outdated cultural depictions’ in movies like Dumbo and The Aristocats,” Yahoo News noted.