Boasting the shark from Jaws, the robe from the Big Lebowski, and the slippers from Oz, the Academy museum is finally open. But the real story is its exposé of Hollywood’s racist, sexist past
In 1939, the Academy of Motion Pictures published its first “players directory”, which grouped actors into categories such as “leading women” and “comediennes”, but set aside separate sections for “coloured” and “oriental” performers. The Academy removed the segregated categories a few years later, but many of the actors of colour weren’t integrated into other sections. They were eliminated.
These racist directories are on display at the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, which celebrates some of the most important film-makers in history while also attempting to confront head-on the dark legacy of exclusion and discrimination in the industry. The hope is to tell a much more complicated, and accurate, story of Hollywood through the years.
“As the Academy, we want to recognise our own complicity,” said Dara Jaffe, an assistant curator, on a recent tour before the official opening on 30 September. She pointed to a display on Anna May Wong, the lone Chinese-American movie star in the 1920s, who was denied leading roles. Nearby, the gallery features original casting notes on Al Pacino and youthful polaroids of Christian Bale and Joaquin Phoenix from early auditions.