from the Los Angeles Times
Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’ turns 20
Universal Home Entertainment
“People actually thought that young black Americans would riot across the country because of this film,” writer-director Spike Lee says. “That’s how crazy it was.”
The 1989 film about racial tensions in a New York neighborhood got people talking. They still are.
On Christmas Day, 1987, the 30-year-old Brooklyn-based filmmaker Spike Lee started working on the script for his third feature. His first, the 1986 surprise hit “She’s Gotta Have It,” was a trailblazing romantic comedy about young upscale African Americans, and his sophomore effort, “School Daze,” a musical look at black college life, was in the can and set to be released two months later. In this new project, Lee wanted to examine the racial tension that enveloped New York City at the time, most of which was due to an incident that occurred in the predominantly white Howard Beach section of Queens a year earlier: A group of white youths attacked three black men outside a pizza place for simply being the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood. One of the black men, 23-year-old Michael Griffith, was chased onto the Belt Parkway and was struck and killed by a car.
The new film, which Lee titled “Do the Right Thing,” wound up detailing how a single block in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant — one with the white-owned Sal’s Famous Pizzeria at its heart — erupted in racial violence on the hottest day of the year. It featured a striking visual style, an idiosyncratic blend of comedy and tragedy, and an extraordinary ensemble cast including Danny Aiello as Sal, the pizzeria owner; Lee as Mookie, an unambitious deliveryman; and Ossie Davis as Da Mayor, the local drunk. It also instantly established Lee as a major talent who couldn’t be ignored or dismissed.
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