The Chicago Defender’s “William Grant Still Tells Of Screenland’s Many Tricks: Famous Song Writer Quits ‘Degrading’ Pix” by WM Grant Still details Still’s experience working on an all-Black film “Stormy Weather,” produced by 20th Century Fox. Still describes how he quit his work on the film because
“…my conscience would not let me accept money to help carry on a tradition directly opposed to the welfare of thirteen million people.”
Grant Still then goes on to explain how he asked for his name to be removed from the film’s credits and how the potential of the initial storyline was promising. Later on in the process, however, Still found that his preconceptions about the film were incorrect. Producers and other studio executives had come to him with ideas about Black culture and its music rooted in ideas of exoticism and crudeness. By contrast, Grant Still’s understanding of the music that he would produce for the film
“…went against the same Hollywood ‘stereotype’ as regards colored people.”
Grant Still’s article illuminates an interesting dichotomy between reality and Hollywood’s perceptions of the reality of race relations in the United States. In the process of creating an all-Black film, directors and producers for the film had hired Grant Still to replicate what they saw to be a universalized version of Black music. When Grant Still’s ideas for music for the film didn’t accurately portray what was expected of him, and what was expected to represent Black individuals at the time, he chose to reject his position and remove his name from any influence on the film. Despite the intentions of the film creators and the Blackness of the film they were producing, Grant Still saw himself as contributing to the social forces of popular culture that reinforced traditional stereotypes of people of color and perpetuated harm in the movie industry.
The video is the titular song and scene “Stormy Weather,” after it was re-arranged in the final version after Still left:
Grant Still, WM. “William Grant Still Tells of Screenland’s Many Tricks: Famous Song Writer Quits ‘Degrading’ Pix.” The Chicago Defender, February 13, 1943. https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/william-grant-still-tells-screenlands-many-tricks/docview/492717129/se-2?accountid=351 (accessed November 15, 2021).