Continuing this month’s Tuesday night survey of how movies have depicted persons with disabilities over the years, Turner Classic Movies offers an Oct. 9 prime-time lineup of films focusing on wounded veterans returning from the wars.
The night’s titles lead off with “Lucky Star,” a 1929 drama that has the dubious distinction of being one of the first films in which a disabled character — in this case a World War I hero (Charles Farrell) — is inexplicably and sentimentally healed of his condition at the climax, and conclude with the Oscar-winning 1946 wartime classic “The Best Years of Our Lives,” for which real-life amputee Harold Russell received an Academy Award as best supporting actor.
Hosted by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz and Lawrence Carter-Long, a frequent spokesman on topics relating to media representation of the disabled, the weekly festival, dubbed “The Projected Image: A History of Disability in Film,” features more than 20 films drawn from the 1920s through the 1980s and encompasses both physical and psychiatric or intellectual disabilities.
“That was to show that there is a big spectrum in disability, that disability is more than just wheelchairs and wheelchair ramps,” Carter-Long tells Zap2it. “If affects a lot of people and different families, and in order to be fair to the subject matter, we wanted to show all of that as much as we could.”
The TCM event is significant, Carter-Long adds, because it reflects a growing awareness of the disabled as a community in its own right.
“It’s significant that for the first time ever, a network the size of Turner Classic Movies is presenting all the films in this series with both audio descriptions for people with visual disabilities and closed captioning for folks with hearing-related disabilities,” he says. “That means disabled viewers will be able to enjoy the films alongside their nondisabled peers without even thinking about it. … Disabled audiences haven’t been thought of in quite that way before, and that’s reflective of our culture.”