It’s President’s Day AND Black History Month. Time for YOU to get better acquainted with the 1933 Vitaphone musical short Rufus Jones for President!
Directed by Roy Mack, Rufus Jones for President stars a 7 year old Sammy Davis Jr as an African American kid who dreams of attaining the highest office in the land. Ethel Waters headlines as the affectionate mother who plants the notion in his head. Also in the all-black cast: Hamtree Harrington, Dusty Fletcher, Edgar Connor, The Will Vodery Girls, and The Russell Wooding Jubilee Singers and a toe tapping hot jazz score by Cliff Hess. The movie’s message is a little: mixed, his mother simultaneously telling Rufus he can be President some day, while at the same time singing “Stay on Your Own Side and No Harm Will Come to You.” The film elsewhere sends split messages, simultaneously inspirational and jubilant, showing off the brilliance of its stars (especially Waters’ singing and Sammy’s dancing), even while there are demeaning racial jokes typical of the period (Rufus names a “Dice President”, a “Commissioner of Poultry” and a “Watermelon Investigator” and is asked to remove the “tax on razors”). Something tells me there may have been some jokes of this nature on one side of Congress long about 2008, but history will have its revenge: Obama was named 8th best President in history by a committee of the nation’s top political scientists this week. The dream came real and no one can ever take that away.
Watch this exhilarating movie here. I think I’ll make it a new President’s Day tradition in my house!