How ‘Green Book’ And The Hollywood Machine Swallowed Donald Shirley Whole

“…In August 2018, Edwin Shirley III sat in disbelief as he watched a screening of Peter Farrelly’s new movie Green Book, a simplistic racial harmony story set in the Jim Crow south. Viggo Mortenson stars as Tony “Lip” Vallelonga, a racist Italian American New Yorker. Mahershala Ali is the supporting actor who is tapped to play Dr. Donald Waldridge Shirley, a Black, queer, musical genius, and Edwin’s uncle, who died at 86 in 2013.
As is typical of a Hollywood White Savior Film, Green Book places Dr. Shirley in several dangerous circumstances with racist white men so that Vallelonga can swoop in and save the day. In the process, Vallelonga teaches the world-renowned Black pianist about Black music and how to eat fried chicken.
Though Dr. Shirley did hire Vallelonga as a driver and bodyguard during one of Dr. Shirley’s concert tours in the south, much of the rest of the movie’s plot (co-written by Vallelonga’s son Nick Vallelonga) is disputed by more family members of Dr. Shirley than just Edwin—none of whom say were consulted or even contacted at any point during the writing or production of this film.
A “symphony of lies”
“It was rather jarring,” Edwin shared with Shadow and Act of his first experience seeing this on-screen portrayal of his uncle as a Black man who is estranged from his family, estranged from the Black community and seemingly embarrassed by Blackness.
Never mind that Dr. Shirley was active in the civil rights movement, friends with Dr. King, present for the march in Selma, and close friends with Black musicians — from Nina Simone to Duke Ellington and Sarah Vaughn — Dr. Shirley was also very much a part of his family’s lives….”
https://shadowandact.com/the-real-donald-shirley-green-book-hollywood-swallowed-whole/

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