There’s just no easy way to watch films set during the Civil War, especially those made prior to 1945. The depiction of African Americans is, at best, cringe-worthy, more so because of the social context of the time that saw no problem with enslaved “happy darkies” than the historical context that required at least a few slaves be present if you’re going to show life on a plantation. This Confederate tale, the first for Shirley Temple, has a modicum of redemption, however: paired with Bill Robinson, the unlikely duo engage in a groundbreaking tap number that, for the first time ever, showed a white person and a black person dancing together on screen. The rest is the usual treacle Temple, god love her, and with the additional boon that Hattie McDaniel’s character is named “mom” instead of “mammy,” you can probably endure the inherent shame of the whole production without getting your britches in too much of a hitch.
Mon., July 7, 5:30 p.m., 2014