There is a sinister airbrushing of history in Woody Allen’s Café Society (Review, G2, 2 September). In the 1930s, Hollywood and New York would have been full of black people – bussing tables, cleaning cars, serving drinks and cleaning houses. Yes, the presence of this army of workers, whose parents or grandparents would have been freed slaves, might have made us a little uncomfortable, but the lushness of 1930s cafe society would not have been possible without them. In Allen’s movie we only saw black people in the two late-night-jazz-club scenes, where they provided decorative trumpet-playing cameos – rather like the now cringe-making statuettes that can still be bought at flea markets.
My grandfather, Sam Minnis, was a member of that army of black workers who upheld 1930s cafe society. I have an old photograph of him with his strikingly handsome face, white tuxedo and bow tie polishing glasses behind an art deco bar. Sam and the rest of that workforce should have been represented in any true nostalgia trip into 1930s cafe society – even just as the shadowy figures the white majority tried to make of them back then. It is incredibly sad that, with our 21st-century tastes, we would rather not see them at all.
Read more at The Guardian.