Taglines: Bobby Taylor was on his way to becoming a star, when a funny thing happened…
Bobby Taylor (Robert Townsend) is a middle class black male aspiring to become an actor. He practices his lines in the bathroom, with his younger brother Stevie (Craigus R. Johnson) watching as he plays a stereotypical “jive” character for the audition for “Jivetime Jimmy’s Revenge”, a movie about street gangs. Bobby’s grandmother (Helen Martin) overhears the “jive talk” and shows her disapproval. His mother (Starletta DuPois), is more supportive, telling Bobby that he is going to be late for the audition. Bobby assures his mother that if he lands the part, everything will change.
After the audition, Bobby talks with his boss Mr. Jones, who questions Bobby’s dedication to his restaurant, Winky Dinky Dog. A limo then pulls up and the man inside is revealed to be B.B. Sanders (Brad Sanders), who plays Batty Boy in There’s a Bat in My House. Ecstatic, Bobby asks Sanders how to tell a good part. Sanders tells him that if his character does not die in the script, then it’s good part. Sanders also says that it is not about art, it is about the sequel.
Bobby gets a call from his agent and learns that his audition went well, but they wanted an “Eddie Murphy-type”. Regardless, Bobby gets a callback. That night, he has a nightmare in which the director (Eugene Robert Glazer), writer (Dom Irrera), and casting director (Lisa Mende) hound him to be Eddie Murphy. Waiting in line with a group of Eddie Murphy clones, Bobby starts turning into Eddie Murphy himself until he wakes up in shock.
The next day, Bobby’s co-workers, Donald and Tiny, belittle Bobby’s career as an actor and his constant excuses for missing work, telling him that he will never make it as an actor. Bobby quits his job. Later that night, Bobby visits his uncle Ray and expresses his doubts in pursuing his acting career. Ray encourages Bobby to try to follow his dreams.
During his callback, the director, writer, and casting director are thrilled at Bobby’s performance, calling it “very black” and give him the eponymous lead role. At home, Bobby celebrates getting the part with his girlfriend Lydia, when his grandmother comes home early and the three watch a film noir. Bobby has another fantasy of him playing the lead in his own film noir, called Death of a Breakdancer.
Hollywood Shuffle is a 1987 satirical comedy film about the racial stereotypes of African Americans in film and television. The film tracks the attempts of Bobby Taylor to become a successful actor and the mental and external roadblocks he encounters, represented through a series of interspersed vignettes and fantasies. Produced, directed, and co-written by Robert Townsend, the film is semi-autobiographical, reflecting Townsend’s experiences as a black actor when he was told he was not “black enough” for certain roles.
Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
Directed by: Robert Townsend
Starring: Robert Townsend, Craigus R. Johnson, Helen Martin, Starletta DuPois, Marc Figueroa, Sarah Kaite Coughlan, Sean Michal Flynn, Brad Sanders
Screenplay by: Robert Townsend, Keenen Ivory Wayans
Production Design by: Melba Katzman Farquhar
Cinematography by: Peter Deming
Film Editing by: W.O. Garrett
Costume Design by: Andre Allen
Art Direction by: Melba Katzman Farquhar
Music by: Udi Harpaz, Patrice Rushen
Distributed by: The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Release Date: March 20, 1987