Here are two deleted scenes from ‘Cafe Metropole’, a 1937 20th Century Fox musical (sort of) starring Tyrone Power, Loretta Young and Adolphe Menjou. Both feature tap-dancing legend Bill Bojangles Robinson, who already had made screen history by dancing with Shirley Temple in another Fox movie ‘The Little Colonel’ (1936), the first interracial dance ever performed on the screen. Why were these two scenes excised? Since it’s not a case of flat-out racism–Robinson continued to work for Fox, co-starring in ‘Stormy Weather’ with Lena Horne a few years later–it was a bit of a puzzlement for many years. I’ll let Wikipedia explain the actual reason, which can be found in the second of the two clips. Hit it:

In 1937, Robinson caused a stir in the Harlem community by choosing Geneva Sawyer, a white dancer, as his dance partner over Jeni Le Gon  ‘Cafe Metropole’. Le Gon had danced with him in Hooray for Love (1935) and had received favorable reviews. Sawyer had been Shirley Temple’s dance coach during the time Temple and Robinson made movies together, and Sawyer had taken tap lessons from Robinson while he was teaching Temple and choreographing her routines. Robinson suggested to the producers that Sawyer could be cast as his partner if she wore blackface. Le Gon’s career suffered as a result, and she never worked with Robinson again. Although the scene was shot with Sawyer in blackface, the studio became convinced that a mixed-race adult couple dancing together would be too controversial. Both scenes with Robinson were cut from the final version of the movie, and the deleted scenes were only released in 2008 as part of a Fox DVD boxed set of Tyrone Power movies.

Note that it was the mixed-race ADULT couple that was the problem. One assumes that the eight year old Temple dancing with Robinson was both cute and naive, a curious distinction. Robinson is at his best in the top number–there are weird, semi-masochistic elements in the second that are more head-scratching than provocative. Which leads us to Clifton Webb and the original Broadway presentation of Cole Porters ‘What Is This Thing Called Love?’, a masochistic Tango that climaxed with a stabbing. But that’s for another day…


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