BLACK IS BOXOFFICE
PERIODICALLY during the late 1950s and early 1960s Variety and other trade journals took note of the "growing Negro audience," which was "now a sizable segment of film patronage as a whole." But this fact seemed to make little difference at the time. In 1963, however, after the NAACP abandoned persuasion and threatened to take legal and economic action against the industry, blacks began to play policemen, civil servants, students, and workers both in features and in movies and shows filmed and taped for television. The studios increased their hiring of blacks as extras so much that the payroll cost for them in one month showed an increase of 700 percent over the same period a year earlier. More blacks were also cast in minor parts.
By the mid- 1970s blacks were seen on screen with a frequency that could almost be called reasonable. Black actors and actresses appeared in everything from crowd scenes to leading roles -- and not just in ghetto-oriented films. If black actresses suffered from the paucity of decent female roles available, so did their white counterparts. But black actors did quite well. For instance, in an acclaimed film, The Last Detail (a 1974 Warners release), Otis Young played the subordinate but important role of one of the two veteran navy men escorting a young sailor to prison. Though Young did not garner as much publicity as leading man Jack Nicholson, he received considerable praise for his portrayal. Moreover, black actors were well represented in the law-and-order movies that flourished in 1973 and 1974, and not just as criminals. Unfortunately, this realistic screen image of the