This article examines the production of Watermelon Man (1970), director Melvin Van Peebles’s only Hollywood film. While the film is often overlooked in scholarly circles in favor of Van Peebles’s more famous Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971), Watermelon Man demonstrates that degree to which Van Peebles was able to produce a film that was aesthetically and narratively subversive in spite of the studio’s attempts to turn the film into a standard, mainstream comedy. Further, combining historical and theoretical approaches, including details about the film’s production from Van Peebles himself, the article contends that the film provides a link between the worlds of Hollywood and black independent film production. Finally, the article explores the ways that Van Peebles uses conventions of Hollywood filmmaking, including racial stereotypes, to criticize mainstream America’s own racism and Hollywood’s role in maintaining it.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.