Matthew Lickona 2:29 p.m., May 24
"We’ve Never Had the John Wayne Treatment"
That's Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder, swooning over the George Lucas-produced Red Tails, a film about the Tuskegee Airmen. The full quote reads like this: "This movie kind of represents the last barrier of equality for the black fighting man. We’ve never had the John Wayne treatment."
There's more, lots more, in this very fine New York Times Magazine piece on Lucas. This is maybe my favorite part, the part that explains the John Wayne reference above:
Lucas’s films are relentlessly — and to some, maddeningly — old-fashioned and naïve. “If it’s a popcorn movie,” Lucas told me, “it needs a lot of corn.”
The first “Red Tails” scripts, which Lucas began commissioning in the early 1990s, suggested a three-part epic. Imagine the opening scenes in segregated Alabama, where one of the original Tuskegee instructors takes Eleanor Roosevelt for a spin; then picture the airborne dogfights over Europe, with slick visual effects from Industrial Light and Magic; and finally, in an irony worthy of Ralph Ellison, envision the war heroes returning home to find that the country they fought for is still in the clammy hands of Jim Crow. “You think ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ you think ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai,’ ” Rick McCallum says. “Then you think, Oh, my God, ‘Red Tails.’ ”
“I can’t make that movie,” Lucas recalled thinking when he read the scripts. “I’m going to have make this kind of . . . entertainment movie.” So Lucas focused on the middle chapter: the dogfights and the Nazi-hunting black pilots who shout, “How you like that, Mr. Hitler!” (When I mention Lucas’s naïve style to Michael Bay, the director of the “Transformers” movies, he says sympathetically, “That’s what I get crap for from my critics.”)
For a model, Lucas studied flag-waving World War II films like Nicholas Ray’s “Flying Leathernecks,” which starred John Wayne. “We made movies like this during the war, and everybody just loved them,” he said. “I said, ‘There’s no reason why that idealism, that kind of naïveté, can’t still exist.’"