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Yes Sir, Mr. Bones

Yes Sir, Mr. Bones(1951)

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At the Show Boat Rest Inn, Jim, an African-American porter, polishes a window pane and looks through the glass to a gathering of mostly white men, two of whom dance to the accompaniment of a black piano player. Impressed by the sight, Jim tells Billie Crane, an inquisitive, young white boy who comes by, that the men inside are old minstrel men. Jim takes Billie in and introduces him to the men. While Jim gets Billie some food, Billy Green, formerly an "Interlocutor," explains to the boy that a minstrel was a man who "made everyboy happy," though he sometimes got into a little trouble. Green is interrupted when a fat, black cook brandishing a pot chases Jim, singing "Stay Out of the Kitchen." After she leaves to get Billie a cookie, Green describes the Interlocutor as a man with a pleasing voice and magnetic personality, who introduced the acts of minstrel shows in blackface of burnt cork. Bennie, one of the former minstrels, instructs Billie to visualize, then walks around a pole and appears on the other side in blackface and a minstrel costume to perform a song and dance. Afterwards, Green tells Billie that minstrel shows started on the Mississippi River and instructs him to visualize it. As a showboat travels along the river, slaves by a plantation cabin sing spirituals and dance. Green relates that the showboats had a ready-made audience when they docked. The performers on the decks of the boat present a "teaser," consisting of singers, dancers and juggling clowns. Inside, a blackface Interlocutor introduces tambourine girls and various acts, including blackface "end men" performing comedy routines in black dialect, blackface tap dancers, a white singing group performing nineteenth-century songs, a comedy act performed by two African Americans, a female singer, female dancers, blackface singers, a softshoe dancer doing a sand dance, an Irish tenor, a "bones" player, a piano player and a courtroom skit. After the finale, Billie's mother comes to the gathering of men. She berates Billie for wandering off and explains that she and Billie had been next door making a purchase when he left her. She says she hopes he did not ask too many questions, but Green assures her that he did not mind. Billie then says that he wants to be a minstrel man, and when Mrs. Crane asks what a minstrel man is, Green invites her to sit down. As he begins his tale again, the slaves at the plantation sing a spiritual.