- Series: Vintage International
- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Int edition (September 13, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307275957
- ISBN-13: 978-0307275950
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Devil Finds Work (Vintage International) Paperback – International Edition, September 13, 2011
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“If Van Gogh was our 19th-century artist-saint, James Baldwin is our 20th-century one.” —Michael Ondaatje
“The best essayist in this country—a man whose power has always been in his reasoned, biting sarcasm; his insistence on removing layer by layer the hardened skin with which Americans shield themselves from their country.” —The New York Times Book Review
“It will be hard for the reader to see these films in quite the same way again.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“He has taken the old subject of race and made it even more personal probing perhaps more deeply than ever before into American racial practices.” —The Nation
“A provocative discussion.” —Saturday Review
From the Inside Flap
James Baldwin At The Movies... Provocative, timeless, brilliant.
Bette Davis's eyes, Joan Crawford's bitchy elegance, Stepin Fetchit's stereotype, Sidney Poitier's superhuman black man... These are the movie stars and the qualities that influenced James Baldwin... and now become part of his incisive look at racism in American movies.
Baldwin challenges the underlying assumptions in such films as In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and The Exorcist, offering us a vision of America's self-delusions and deceptions. Here are our loves and hates, biases and cruelties, fears and ignorance reflected by the films that have entertained us and shaped our consciousness. And here, too, is the stunning prose of a writer whose passion never diminished his struggle for equality, justice, and social change.
From The Birth of a Nation to The Exorcist--one of America's most important writers turns his critical eye to American film. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The essay is divided into three chapters. In the first, Baldwin discusses his adolescent love of movies and how it conflicted with his brief career as an adolescent minister in a church where the cinema (and the theater) were both regarded as "the devil's work" (thus, one of the implications of the title). The movies he dissects range from "A Tale of Two Cities" to Fritz Lang's "You Only Live Once," and he contrast the experience of film-watching with that of live theater, recalling Orson Welles's production of "Macbeth," which featured an all-black cast.
In the second chapter, Baldwin hits his stride, tearing into the patronizing portrayal of non-white roles in such films as "In the Heat of the Night," "In This, Our Life," "The Defiant Ones," and "Lawrence of Arabia." Baldwin observes about a type that reappears in many movies of the first seventy years of cinema: "It so happens that I saw 'The Birth of the Nation' and 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner' on the same day . . . [Yet] in two films divided from each other by something like half a century, [there was] the same loyal [black] maid, playing the same role, and speaking the same lines." Noting how this stereotypical woman never seems to have her own family and how her only concerns are those of her white masters or employers, Baldwin exclaims: "How many times have we seen her! She is Dilsey, she is Mammy, in 'Gone with the Wind,' and in 'Imitation of Life,' and 'The Member of the Wedding.'"
Baldwin's final chapter finds him perplexed by the popular films of the 1970s. He is disappointed by the watering down of Billie Holiday's autobiography in "Lady Sings the Blues," although he admits that Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, and Richard Pryor "are, clearly, ready, willing, and able to stretch out and go a distance not permitted by the film." And he is disturbed by "The Exorcist" and what it seems to suggest about American dogma: "The mindless and hysterical banality of evil presented in 'Exorcist' is the most terrifying thing about the film."
Or, as Baldwin responds elsewhere to such otherworldly screen depictions of virtue and immorality: "I have seen the devil, by day and by night, and have seen him in you and in me.... He does not levitate beds, or fool around with little girls, we do."