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Hollywood Shuffle

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  • Hollywood Shuffle

    Released by: Olive Films
    Released on: April 28th, 2015
    Director: Robert Townsend
    Cast: Robert Townsend, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Helen Martin
    Year: 1987
    Purchase from Amazon

    The Movie

    Hollywood Shuffle is a funny yet bitingly satirical look about the trials and struggles of being a black actor in the Hollywood system, a film which was written, produced and directed by noted African-American auteur Robert Townsend.

    Townsend himself plays a struggling actor who is searching for his big break in Hollywood, despite the fact that the only roles offered to him seem to be demeaning and racially stereotypical druggie, pimp or gang member roles. The film follows Townsend as he auditions for a flick called "Jivetime Jimmy's Revenge," as well as the strain his dreams of stardom have upon his extended family, which includes his grandmother, mother and younger brother.

    All of Townsend's issues with race in Hollywood are represented via vignettes which occur at regular intervals throughout the film, such as "Black Acting School"-where Townsend teaches a course in how to play proper slaves and "black" roles-and a film review show where two black critics take on such parodies as "Chicago Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "Dirty Larry." These cut scenes provide most of the film's humor, while also taking up the lion's share of its brief 78 minute running time.

    Hollywood Shuffle is really humorous and entertaining, with a message based upon Townsend's own personal struggles during auditions which still resonates today, despite the occasionally dated nature of the film's references. Comparisons to such films as CB4, Fear of a Black Hat and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka are both obvious and evident, but not really in a bad way, as those films are some pretty good company in which to share.


    Olive Films Blu-Ray of Hollywood Shuffle is par for the course when it comes to the company's output, with nicely saturated colors, strong audio and a clear picture with a small bit of flicker here and there, but no noticeable damage or imperfections.

    Sadly, there are absolutely no extras, which is frustrating, because it'd be great to get Townsend's thoughts on the film now via commentary or a featurette. Still, given that MGM's prior issuing of the film on DVD is out of print, this makes Olive;s Blu-Ray the most cost effective way to catch Robert Townsend's send up of being a black actor in Hollywood.

    The Final Word

    Townsend's film still has something to say, despite being released almost twenty years ago. It's an interesting snapshot of the hoops through which many actors had to jump early on in their career, while also delivering some laughs along the way.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    • WestgateGallery
      Junior Member
      WestgateGallery commented
      Editing a comment
      Since it's been almost 30 years and no one ever dares (or cares enough) to speak about this, I will. Absolutely anything clever or well-done in Hollywood Shuffle was the work of Keenan Wayans, who did extensive uncredited rewrites and backseat direction to help Robert, his friend at the time. I worked on Robert's first TV sitcom and while he could be very charming and had a certain charisma in person, the only talent of his I saw in 6 months was an ability to go commando anywhere, anytime cameras weren't rolling. The most hilarious irony was Robert playing a college professor. On an early episode we had Star Trek's Michael Dorn guest starring as a rival faculty member and I will never forget Michael's expression at the first script reading when Robert couldn't recognize or pronounce the math term "Pi" in dialogue. He kept saying "Pihhh", like "pick" with the k sound dropped. Later that night I unexpectedly ran into Michael backstage at a Go-Go's reunion concert and he came up to me, shaking his head and said in his booming Shakesperean voice "THAT... was astounding." Naturally, Robert hated Michael showing him up in the storyline and on the set, and demanded Michael be replaced. The network refused.
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