By Sylvia Gurinsky
During the late 1950s, singer Nat King Cole had a weekly variety program on NBC. He sang, of course, and featured many of the greatest singers of the 20th century, black and white.
But NBC struggled to get sponsors for the show, and it was cancelled after a short time. Afterward, Cole said, "Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark."
For one, brief shining moment during the 1970s when Norman Lear reigned as television's hit king, Madison Avenue wasn't afraid of the dark. But Hollywood always has been.
How else to explain the fact that "Black and White," Kevin Costner's new film about an interracial child custody battle, can't find a distributor?
Mike Binder, who produced and directed the well-received "The Upside of Anger," does the same here. Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar playing a maid in "The Help," co-stars.The film was well-received at the Toronto Film Festival.
Major studios that rake in money from comedies starring African-Americans won't touch this film. By the way, those comedies have been revealed to make more money from the studios than movies starring whites. Sadly, the cast members and plot lines don't generally rise above the old "Amos 'n Andy" stereotypes.
Or if there is a major movie about race from a major studio, it's about the past, such as "The Help" or "The Butler." We Shall Overcome, right?
The wine-and-brie crowd that makes up independent filmmakers won't touch this movie, either. Most of them are white, and issues involving race usually don't cross their spheres of thought.
African-Americans may not want to go near this film because it involves uncomfortable issues, including the high rate of drug use among young black men.
Perhaps cable television would be more open to "Black and White." Perhaps.
The recent upheaval in Ferguson, Missouri over a police shooting of an African-American man shows how far the U.S. has to go with issues of race. The silence about "Black and White" shows how far Hollywood has to go.
The film community complains of a lack of good movies about race?
You have your chance with this one, Hollywood.