by Thomas E. Mitchell, Jr.
Though it’s not a perfect movie, “Red Tails,” the World War Two epic about the legendary Tuskegee Airmen who fought the Germans in the air and racism on the ground, is still a worthy film of great historical significance that should be seen by African Americans, young and old.
As a matter of fact, it should be seen by all Americans regardless of color because many individuals (White AND Black) don’t know or fully appreciate the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.
A case in point on the aforementioned latter: A Black gentleman who saw the movie at a multiplex in Menomonee Falls recounted an incident between himself and two White theater goers–a couple–while waiting in line to see the film.
“The White guy tells the woman the star of the film is the airplane (the P-51 Mustang, arguably the best fighter plane–pound for pound–during the war),” the man recalled, still angry about what the White male said.
As they were going into the theater, they passed a poster for the film. The Black gentleman (who declined to give his name for this story) said he turned to the White gentleman and pointed to the poster’s illustration of the film’s actors and said, “THESE are the real stars of the film!”
Recalling what he said, the brother explained he meant the Tuskegee Airmen the actors were portraying are the real stars–the heroes who fought two wars: The actual war and the war against ignorance and hate from their very own countrymen.
The brother recalled the White gentleman’s companion–the woman–told him he shouldn’t be “so sensitive” about what her friend said. “This just shows–to me–that they (the couple, and probably many White people in general) just don’t get it!” the Black gentleman said. “They don’t appreciate the contributions and sacrifices of Black people in areas other than sports and entertainment.
“Red Tails shows the intelligence, heroism and patriotism of men who very easily and legitimately could have turned their backs on serving a country that thought them less than human and undeserving of basic dignity and respect. The fact they endured the racism they did in the Army Air Corp is a testimony to their loyalty and moral forthrightness.”The Black moviegoer also said he saw large numbers of Black Milwaukeeans at various city and suburban movie complexes showing the film, which stars Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrence Howard, and was produced by George Lucas of “Star Wars” fame. The noted filmmaker spent $58 million of his own money to make the film.
Though the debut weekend box office receipts for “Red Tails” could be viewed as disappointing by Hollywood standards (the film grossed $19.1 million this past weekend compared to $25.4 million made by the weekend’s highest grossing film, the fantasy action movie, “Underworld: Awakening”), a representative with 20th Century Fox Studios, which distributed the film, said “Red Tails” performed well above expectations, reaching double digits in dollars made.
According to a BlackAmericaWeb.com article on the film’s box office showing, “Red Tails” saw an increase in box office earnings during the weekend. Though the film made about $6 million on opening day Friday, it made $8.65 million on Saturday.
BlackAmericaWeb attributed the uptick in revenues from Friday to Saturday to a national grassroots effort to get groups of Black people to see the film. Nationally, Black websites such as BlackAmericaWeb, The Griot and others pushed the film via advertising and preview stories on Lucas and the film’s actors.
Here in Milwaukee, a large contingent of Black men descended on the AMC Theaters at Mayfair Mall to see the film. The Black Man’s forum group sponsored the effort, called “Men’s Night Out.” The Black Man’s Forum group has sponsored several “Men’s Night Out” movie events for the last several years as a demonstration of unity and support for Black films that depict Black people–especially Black men–in a positive light.