Tag Archives: Wells Root

MOKEY: Hollywood’s take on black-white relations in the south, ca. 1942

22 Feb

MOKEY (1942) is a family drama made at MGM in 1942, a film I first heard of when I came across an entry for it in Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, where it was described with this short two-sentence summary: “Reed has problems with her stepson, who almost winds up in reform school. Typical of genre.” “Reed” refers to one of the film’s stars, Donna Reed. What intrigued me at the time was the inclusion of three black performers in the cast list for the film: William “Buckwheat” Thomas (as he’s billed in the film’s credits), Cordell Hickman, and Etta McDaniel. If they were just playing walk-on servant roles, they wouldn’t have been listed so prominently. I determined, correctly, that Buckwheat and Hickman played Blake’s companions in it. Both Blake and Buckwheat were co-starring in MGM’s “Our Gang” series at the time, which would make this a rare opportunity for two actors from that series to share dramatic roles onscreen. (“Our Gang” would, of course, become much more famous when it ran on TV in later decades as “The Little Rascals.”)

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