Yesterday Facebook’s Tom Brueggemann attempted to paint Pauline Kael with a racist brush. His weapon was a paragraph from Kael’s March 1966 McCall’s review of Stuart Burge and Laurence Olivier‘s Othello.

My first thought was “it’s very easy to accuse someone of racial insensitivity or clumsy phrasing a half-century later.”

Obviously no white actor today would even think of trying to portray an African or Moorish character, but Kael, hardly beholden to rube attitudes, was thinking beyond the usual confines.

She was merely saying that Olivier, a burning furnace beneath the surface, was conveying a certain unhinged madness or mania that prominent black actors of the mid ’60s, in her view, had been or would be reluctant to wade into.

If Jerry Schatzberg‘s Street Smart (’87) were to be remade today, I wonder if any black actor would dive into Morgan Freeman‘s “Fast Black” character with as much relish? Freeman was amazing in that film, but also quite scary. Not concluding — just thinking out loud.

Paul Schrader‘s response to Brueggemann: “A valid observation. Sorry if it’s not p.c. enough for you.”

At least read Kael’s entire review before forming a judgment.