Audrey Hepburn in a “classic” film adapted from a novella written by former 70 Willow Street resident Truman Capote surely seems appropriate for this year’s Movies with a View in Brooklyn Bridge Park. That is, unless you’ve seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s — which topped Complex Magazine’s list of the 50 Most Racist Movies ever made.
The 1961 Blake Edwards film has been tagged as racist by many due to Mickey Rooney’s “hilarious” portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi, Holly Golightly’s neighbor. Rooney, playing a Japanese man redefined racist stereotypes in film by hamming it up with fake buckteeth while bending every “L” in to an “R” .
In 2008, the film was taken off the slate of a festival in Sacramento, California after Asian-Americans protested. Dr. Christina Fa of Asian American Media Watch called it “arguably the most racist anti-Asian film in American cinematic history.”
As for Rooney, he thinks this is all a big misunderstanding. During the controversy in 2008, he was interviewed by the Sacramento Bee:
“It breaks my heart. Blake Edwards, who directed the picture, wanted me to do it because he was a comedy director. They hired me to do this overboard, and we had fun doing it.”Rooney, who occasionally shows the Mr. Yunioshi clip as part of his traveling stage show, added, that “Never in all the more than 40 years after we made it — not one complaint. Every place I’ve gone in the world people say, ‘God, you were so funny.’ Asians and Chinese come up to me and say, ‘Mickey you were out of this world.’ “Rooney said he loves everybody, and his life is a testament to that. “I was born in Brooklyn, delivered by a Chinese doctor on a table in a boarding house on September 23, 1920,” he said. “I came from a poor family, my father was from Glasgow, Scotland, my mother’s brothers were brakemen on the railroad, we didn’t have anything but mush for breakfast.”He said he won a Bronze Star in World War II serving with Japanese-American and Chinese-American soldiers battling the Nazis in Europe.Rooney’s wife Jan, who said they were married in Hong Kong and love Chinese art, food, culture and medicine, said the role was meant to be fun. “It’s terribly sad and I feel bad for the people taking offense,” she said.Rooney said that if he’d known people would have been so offended, “I wouldn’t have done it.””Those that didn’t like it, I forgive them and God bless America,” he said. “God bless the universe, God bless Japanese, Chinese, Indians, all of them and let’s have peace.”
What do you think? Should the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy yank the flick from its schedule?