Howdy, and welcome back. Hey, it’s Black History Month, and Redbox kept blowing up my email with a free movie night or something (supposedly I survived into my 44th year or some such…). So, I decided to get me a black history film AND one that would qualify for Diesel Era restrospection. Marshall (2017) starring Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad and Kate Hudson, fit the bill in both ways.
Directed by Reginald Hudlin, Marshall chronicles a case in the early career of Thurgood Marshall. You might have heard of him in his later years as America’s first black person to sit on the Supreme Court. Well, he was also the first black person to ever argue a case before the Supreme Court back in the day. Here was a man who just would not take no for an answer from Jim Crow society, and in that peculiarly racist era, such a spine of steel was necessary to induce progress.
The tale takes place in 1941, diesel heartland, and if you’ve read my ATOMS & SHADOWS blogs (fear not! It’s coming back soon) you know I loathe giving story details. I will say that as Marshall is ending one case and dealing with the difficulties of rarely ever being home with his darling wife, the NAACP he works for (he was also their sole lawyer) drops a case on him involving the classic American trope of ‘black man rapes white woman’ that has grabbed national headlines.
For those dialed into Black Panther, Boseman does a good job of portraying Thurgood Marshall. And, he’s racking up the black history protagonist category all by himself, having previously done a fine job in 42 (2013) as Jackie Robinson.
I’ll leave it there. What follows are some very good arguments between Marshall and his newfound partner, racism galore, a decent whodunit, and a good film. The sole lacking part to this was tension. I never once felt as if things would end badly, or suddenly take a turn for the worst. Perhaps it’s because I know he ascended to the Supreme Court later on and things worked out. But really, I felt that way about the case itself. A very intricate case, but not dramatic. It did speak to the insanity of Jim Crow and how it ran deep in the North (yes, the North, for those who continue to opine that racism was merely a Southern venture). Here was the sole flaw in the picture for me.
There is a pretty good degree of four-way prejudice here: white, black, Jewish and gender. I liked how it displayed the American system, being about freedom while simultaneously denying it to various segments of society, and those segments fighting back in various ways. Some of those ways occur in the heat of the moment, others planned, but it shows that all are aware of what the Constitution entails, and its amendments, but applying them equally across the board is another matter altogether.
But the suits! For dieselpunks into attire, this one hits it out the park. This is very much a man’s film, but not because it lacks women. It just shows men 90% of the time and boy, do they wear some fine, sharp and varied suits. Now, the ladies have some rather dashing dresses, but they get precious little screen time. And, it was swell to see mens’ clothing in a variety of colors, pins, flowers, neckties, etc., and not the usual dull black, brown or Navy blue. Oh, and automobiles. Class acts all the way.
Marshall was worth the watch. Personally, I don’t do holidays and birthdays, but history months I put to use to red and watch in order to learn more about American history and those who’ve contributed to it. I make it work for me, instead of complaining as some do that it was ‘forced upon me’. Take advantage of it. Grab a black history book. A movie. Dig deep. The same goes for months to come on womens’ history, Native American, Hispanic, Asian American…
Marshall is a good place to start.