Monday, August 26, 2013

Don't Believe Everything You See In 'The Butler'

People are getting very excited over Lee Daniels' movie The Butler.
The raves have been plenty and there's lots of Oscar buzz.
And the movie has led the box office sweepstakes for the second consecutive week.
It is quite a tale: sweeping, compelling, dramatic and highly-charged, as we mentioned in our review.
Just one problem: The story of the butler as depicted in the movie is not true. 
It's merely BASED on a true story -- and there's the rub. 
The real butler's story (his name was Eugene Allen) was detailed in a 2008 article in The Washington Post which became the basis for the movie. In truth, the butler was not the child of sharecroppers in the deep south and he never saw his mother raped or his father murdered as depicted in the movie. Though he grew up in segregated Virginia, he worked hard to advance himself and never really expected to get as far as he did. But in part by happenstance he got a job at the White House and rose to become maĆ®tre d hote, the highest position in White House service.
By all accounts, Eugene Allen had a normal, quiet life as a middle-class African-American and was married to the same woman for 65 years. She never had an affair and was not an alcoholic. 
And yes -- they had a son. But their son was not a civil rights protester. Instead, their son served honorably in Vietnam and apparently never made a peep of protest through the pre- and post-civil rights era. 
What is true is that Ronald and Nancy Reagan invited him and Mrs. Allen to a formal state dinner at the White House and President Reagan promoted him and made sure he got the salary that he deserved. 
And this is true as well: Eugene Allen kept the photos of all the presidents he served in the basement of his modest home in DC. However, only one presidential photo maintained a place of honor in the Allens' living room: Ronald Reagan. 
Don't believe everything Hollywood tells you. 
because tinseltown has a way of telling its stories through a frequently-skewed looking glass.

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