When the women of ‘Tiger’ came out: How the movie’s ‘slimming’ made its way to theaters
The first “Tiger” movie, released on March 16, 1967, was a smash hit for Warner Bros. The film’s star, Kate Winslet, was cast as a 19-year-old slave named Tia in the role of a slave-owning mother of three named Fannie Mae.
The movie was a flop, and after the first week of previews, Warners was left with a $7.5 million budget for the next film in the series.
Warner Bros., however, made an unexpected bet on the story of Tia, and the studio made her the star of a new movie that would be released on April 1, 1967.
Tia is a 19 year-old black woman living in Harlem.
It was a groundbreaking move for Warners, which had seen its share of black films before and had a long history of supporting black actors.
Tiah was to be part of the “Black Panther” movies and to play a pivotal role in the struggle for black freedom.
In early March 1967, Warner Bros.’ executive vice president of distribution and production, Walter Hill, received a memo from the studio stating that the film had already been screened in a theater in Los Angeles, and he called Winslet and said, “I’m gonna make an announcement.”
The studio then sent a letter to Warners’ marketing chief, Howard Roddenberry, announcing that the studio was in negotiations with producer Robert Mitchum about producing the film.
Roddenberries response was simple.
He said, “”I’m going to try and get an audience for this.
“It was an odd choice of words, given that Warners had just released a number of movies that were widely seen to be “black propaganda.
“Winslet, who played Tia for three films, including “Titanic,” had already played a white slave in the 1940s and 1950s.
In fact, Winslet had been the only black woman in the “Talladega Nights” gang.
She also had a close relationship with black singer and musician Marlon Brando, and she and Brando worked closely on “Tail of the Dragon.”
In a move that seemed to be a direct challenge to the studio, Warnies released a video of Tiah in a bikini that was widely viewed as an effort to show that she was a slave, and that she had a choice to be white.
In the video, she dances on the beach while the words “white girl” and “slave” are written across her chest.
Winslets bikini was a huge hit.
The next week, Warnings’ marketing manager sent a memo to other Warners execs saying, “Tiah has a big, beautiful face, so we want to make her a star in the movie.”
The studio made a film, “Roots,” starring a white woman, and it did not receive a critical response.
It went on to earn $25 million and be nominated for an Oscar, but it failed to make a profit.
Warner Brothers eventually pulled the film from release in order to make more films, but the backlash against the “Root” and Tiah films continued.
Wes Anderson, a white director, was in talks to direct the next installment in the franchise, but Warners eventually turned down the director’s request.
Anderson’s films have become the archetypal Hollywood “white man’s burden” films, in which a white man is cast in the lead role, and then is often cast in stereotypical roles for other roles.
They are also films with a heavy dose of racism.
Tiah, who was the last black character to appear in the Disney films “Winnie the Pooh” and the “Little Mermaid,” was not only an exception to the rule, but also a rarity.
It took a long time for her to make the leap from a white person to a black person.
Wise words, yes.
But if “Rooting” had been released at a time when black actresses were making headlines for daring to speak their minds, it is fair to say that the reaction was mixed.
In February 1968, the New York Times published an article titled “The Black Woman in Hollywood,” and noted that, while white women make up nearly two-thirds of the film industry, there are no black actresses in any of the top ten films, and no black directors or writers in any films released that year.
In all, the Times noted, the only female director of a major film in 1968 was Lillian Gish, who had been cast as the first black female lead in the 1959 “The Three Little Pigs.”
The backlash against Tiah and other black characters in “Rotting” came not from Hollywood elites but from people who knew nothing about the movies, including children who watched the film on television.
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