Oral Histories

Interview of Eugene Simpson

Crewman. One of the first African Americans to work in Hollywood in the areas of stage lighting, rigging, and as a best boy.
Hollywood in the Civil Rights Era
African American History
Film and Television
Biographical Note:
Crewman. One of the first African Americans to work in Hollywood in the areas of stage lighting, rigging, and as a best boy.
Dawson, Andrew
Simpson, Eugene
Persons Present:
Simpson and Dawson.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
2 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series includes interviews with studio workers who gained entry to the motion picture industry following Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They were donated to the UCLA Center for Oral History Research by Andrew Dawson of the University of Greenwich, London, who conducted them as part of his research on the Civil Rights era in Hollywood.
Basic biographical information--Black literacy and growing up in Pasadena--His stepfather, Sullivan Marshall--Learning about his father, Napoleon Simpson--His service in the U.S. Air Force--Segregation in Florida during the 1950s--His two years in England-- As a crew chief for Barry Goldwater’s airplane--On the social advantages of proper grammar and diction--His work at Lockheed Aircraft--His mother’s background--Grandfather’s homicide incident--Pasadena as a haven for middle-class blacks--Father’s career as an actor--More on Lockheed Aircraft--Withdrawal from college courses--1960s Motion picture training program--A “ten percent” minority mandate-- Steven Antoine-- More on motion picture training program--On his mentor Doggie Lan--Simpson’s work ethic--His experience of racism in the industry--Frank Sinatra--Columbia studios--Black actors working the film industry during the l970s--More on racial integration in the film industry--His general impressions of Wendell Franklin--Racial integration on the set of The Cosby Show--Simpson’s work on The Cosby Show--On supervising white men as a black man in the film industry--Racial discrimination as policy at Disney Studios--On socializing with other film industry crewmen--His Pasadena club, The Social Lads--On the advantages of being a best boy--His relationship with directors and directors of photography (DPs)--His acquaintanceship with cinematographer Joe Wilcox--The Learning Tree as his first major shoot outside a film studio--Filming in segregated Missouri--Resistance to the presence of blacks in Fort Scott, Kansas--Relationship with director Gordon Parks--Getting the production crew job for The Learning Tree--His work on The Last Picture Show and other projects--His work for television--Retirement--Activity in International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 728--His friendship with Cordell Boyd (CB) at Warner Bros. studios--Major Hollywood film studios, John Birch, and the John Birch Society--On his racist encounter with John Wayne--More on John Wayne--His correspondence with NAACP--The controversial title for his proposed autobiography--The use of racial epithets in Hollywood--The current state of blacks in Hollywood--Simpson as an industry pioneer--Financial challenges to working on a film crew--On teaching at The Watkins Film School--His course in cinematography--His philosophy on film and film lighting--His views on working with Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier