the mostly fictionalized story of Eugene Allen, renamed Cecil Gaines
(Forest Whitaker), serving from 1957 through 1986, eventually becoming
the head butler at the White House.
because this purports to be a true story and because itís made by the
Hollywood left (the producer, director, and writer are all democrat
stalwarts and the producer, at least, is known to insert his political
leanings in his movies), this critique requires research and will be
mostly a fact check to tell potential viewers whatís true and what
isnít. This is necessary because most people who view these biopics that
use real names for real people come away thinking theyíve seen the truth
and believe what theyíve seen. As a result, there are spoilers
throughout. However, the sources I could check are pretty limited and if
anything I say here about what is true and what isnít is inaccurate and
a reader can provide me with facts, I will happily make corrections.
true: there was a black man who was a butler in The White House from
1957 through 1986; he was married to one woman who died just before the
inauguration of Barack Obama in 2008. Just about everything else in the
film is made up or twisted to make a political point, the result being
to further incite racial divisions in this country.
Director Lee Daniels has made a film that seethes with black animosity
towards whites. Itís present in every scene. There isnít a white person
in the movie shown as being sympathetic. All the white Presidents are
pictured as condescending, even democrat stalwarts Kennedy and Johnson.
The cast is populated by Hollywoodís A-list left. Robin Williams
misplays Dwight Eisenhower. John Cusack plays Richard Nixon.
Alan Rickman mean-spiritedly plays Ronald Reagan as a white Stepinfetchit. Jane Fonda,
who notoriously supported the Viet Cong against American troops, plays
kind things that white people did for Gene are twisted by Daniels and
writer Danny Strong in a way that shows everything they did as blatantly
went to the source, writer Wil Haygoodís story in the Washington Post,
the article that was used as the basis for this movie. Hereís what he
says about one incident shown in the film:
lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him one afternoon, and Mr. Allen
wondered whether he or a member of his staff had done something wrong.
She assured him that he had not but also told him that his services
would not be needed at the upcoming state dinner for German Chancellor
Helmut Kohl. Mr. Allen tensed, wondering why.
"She said, 'You and Helene
are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and me,' "
he recounted in the Post interview. Mr. Allen thought he was the first
butler to receive an invitation to a state dinner. He and Helene -- she
was a beautiful dresser -- looked resplendent that night. The butlers on
duty seemed to pay special attention to the couple as they poured
champagne for guests -- champagne that Mr. Allen himself had stacked in
and Strong, however, twist this unprecedented kindness to make the
Reagans look condescending and manipulative and Whitaker plays it to
make Cecil appear uncomfortable, thinking that he and his wife are being
used as mere ďtokens.Ē So the kindness of a white Republican President
to honor a long time black White House employee is made into something
demeaning. Daniels even has one of the black waiters serve Cecil wine
and whisper ďF-youĒ in his ear. Contrary to the way Daniels pictures it,
according to Haygoodís article both Gene and his wife were thrilled and
felt honored at the invitation.
Consistent with his bias, Daniels never even mentions that it was Ronald
Reagan who promoted Gene to be the maÓtre dí.
of the many dishonest scenes in the movie shows Ronald Reagan adamantly
opposed to sanctions on South Africa, implying that he was supportive of
the apartheid regime, without stating why he opposed sanctions. Daniels
only shows an obdurate Reagan constantly repeating, ďIím going to veto
it,Ē without giving any explanation. In fact, at the time communism was
our main enemy and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa was
loaded with Communists. Reagan felt that sanctions were not the best way
to achieve racial equality in South Africa, very similar to the leftís
position today on sanctions on Cuba. Reaganís opposition to sanctions
was a long way from supporting apartheid, but Danielís motive in this
movie has no relationship to honesty. He damns with innuendo. What seems
unrealistic about this scene is that Daniels has Cecil standing by
watching as Reagan meets with a group of Republican senators. In fact,
in every administration when there are big meetings, thereís Cecil
standing there observing. Maybe itís true that waiters are omnipresent
at every big meeting, but I sincerely doubt it. Iíve seen lots of
photographs of lots of big meetings at The White House and have never
seen the presence of a waiter. I think that Daniels put Cecil in the
scene to make it look that the conversation demeaned him.
as movie-making goes, the acting is good. Whitaker will undoubtedly be
up for an Oscarģ and he will deserve the nomination, although he plays
Cecil as basically unhappy and put upon. The cinematography is well done
and most of the cast, except Rickman and a horribly miscast Williams,
give acceptable performances. The
script is well-written for what the filmmakers intended this movie to
be, and gives the political slant Daniels wanted.
stacks the books right at the outset when Cecilís father (David Banner)
is murdered in cold blood by his white boss (Alex Pettyfer, in a
half-crazed caricature) in 1926 before Cecilís eyes after raping his
mother (Mariah Carey). There is nothing that Iíve been able to find that
validates that this, or anything even close, happened to Gene. There is
certainly nothing in Haygoodís article that mentions this. So with this
completely fictional invention Daniels establishes immediately that all
whites are no good and Cecil has no choice but to ďgo alongĒ if he wants
not all the fiction here. Strong and Daniels invent a second son (David
Oyelowo). As near as I can determine, Gene and his wife, Helene, had
only one son, and he worked as an investigator with the State Dept.
Danielsí invented son is angry, an activist who gets arrested time and
again and becomes a member of the Black Panthers. Amazingly this
never-existed son is present at almost every seminal point in the civil
rights movement! They also give him a Black Panther girlfriend obviously
patterned on the infamous Angela Davis. Cecil bans him from the
household, but in the end comes over to his point of view and apologizes
to him. As far as I can determine, this is sheer fantasy, but itís
inserted to make the movie a story about the civil rights movement and
not Gene Allen.
Cecil gets his job at The White House is not the way Gene got his job;
itís not even close.
and Strong also put in a continuing story of Cecil complaining that the
black servers at The White House didnít get paid as much as the whites
doing the same job, and demanding equal pay. I can find no authority for
this. What I did find was that the serving staff was entirely black, so
there could have been no problem with blacks being paid less than whites
for the same work. Ergo, this must have been inserted for the sole
purpose of making a racial provocation.
terribly wrong about this movie is that the segregation to which blacks
were actually subjected was horrible. It was driven by the Democrat
party in the south, which was solidly democrat then, and continued until
the GOP could take over the political landscape in the south. Although
democrat Lyndon Johnson was President when the Civil Rights Act of 1965
was passed, it was passed because it got overwhelming Republican support
(16 democrat senators, 25%, voted against it; Republicans voted in favor
30-2!) Without almost unanimous Republican support, the bill would have
failed. The movie is silent about this, but since itís a fact, and since
it casts a bad light on his democrat party, Daniels had no place for it
in the film.
wanted to make a movie about what blacks had to go through, fine, make
one. Find a factual story to tell. Or make it a roman Š clef. But the
story of Gene Allen and his service at The White House is not that story
and it is a disservice to the man and the people whom he served to make
this into one, and to defame all whites in general and well-meaning,
kind people, like Ronald and Nancy Reagan, in particular just because
they happen to be white is reprehensible.
received lots of emails from people urging people to stay away simply
because Fonda is playing Nancy Reagan. These people miss the point
(thatís nothing new for Republicans!). Actually, Fonda gives a pretty
good portrayal of Nancy. A more compelling reason to stay away is
because of the shameful racism it encourages.
than being educational, this is a disingenuous film that propagates a
destructive myth about Geneís life that only serves to incite further
disharmony in our society.
of being honest and reporting that this movie is using Geneís story as
an excuse to tell an entirely different story, about the civil rights
movement, this movie is being sold by many in the go-along mainstream
media and the people who are promoting it as fact. An example is the
following from CBS Morning News:
OíDonnell, ďItís the real life story of Eugene Allen.Ē
co-anchor, Gayle King, ďItís an education for a lot of people.Ē
Winfrey, ďItís a history lesson.Ē
itís none of those things. It could have been, but itís not.