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August 27, 2013

REVIEW White House Butler

Roy Meachum

As readers know, I spent the Lyndon B. Johnson’s five years hanging around the White House. When the film appeared locally, called “Lee Daniel’s The Butler,” I was eager to see it. Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey starred in the movie.


You might have heard Friday “Bob Miller’s Morning News Express” on WFMD930AM, and know I’m disappointed: I thought it featured a long-time butler whom I knew, at least by sight. The flick was peachy otherwise. Director Lee Daniel recreated “The Butler.” Mr. Whitaker was a Civil Rights composite; between him and wife Winfrey, they spawned sons that filled stereotypical roles, including a Black Panther, a guy that sat in at Greensboro’s fountain counter and a soldier who didn’t come back from Vietnam.


The butler started in the Eisenhower Administration, lasting until Ronald Reagan became president. There are all kinds of stars. Robin Williams plays Ike. James Marsden and Minka Kelly are John and Jackie Kennedy. Liev Schreiber stands in for LBJ. With elongated nose to match, John Cusack is Richard M. Nixon. British actor Alan Richman impersonates Mr. Reagan and Jane Fonda, his wife. Cuba Goodling, Jr., Terrence Howard and Colman Domingo act other White House staff. Vanessa Redgrave plays a woman who liberates the younger butler from Georgia clay.


My memory does not accord with screen writer Danny Strong on details, e.g. Jack Kennedy began preaching Civil Rights. In the next administration, we were convinced he was all-talk and Lyndon Johnson delivered substance, twisting arms for enabling legislation to give African Americans rights. Last Saturday the nation marked 50 years since the March on Washington. I kind of wonder if this was why the film was released this month.


But, my dears, these are only quibbles. When Forest Whitaker goes for ceremonies recognizing him, he wears a Kennedy tie held down by a Johnson clasp.


Go, by all means! You’ll enjoy the all-star cast, led by Academy Award best actor Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.


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The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
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