Despite my misgivings about the film that his life inspired (misgivings that have nothing to do with the real man himself, as I know him), if there’s one very good thing that comes out of the release of Lee Daniels’ The Butler, it’s that it will likely generate public interest in the story of the real life butler, the late Eugene Allen – a story that apparently no one was interested in or intrigued by until journalist Wil Haygood, working on President Obama’s 2008 presidential run, sought out stories from White House staff who had been employed there prior to the signing of the Civil Rights Act in the mid-1960s.
Up until that glorious moment, no one had ever taken an interest in Allen’s story. And after that moment, no one else would get to hear Allen’s story directly from Allen, because Haygood is the only journalist to have ever done so.
Allen died in 2010 at 90 years old – meaning he’ll obviously never get to see the film that his life has inspired.
In the below video, Oprah Winfrey pays tribute (albeit a brief one) to Eugene Allen.
What would be especially great (but likely impossible now, given that most of the players have moved on to the next life) is if a documentary on Allen’s life were produced, to complement Daniels’ film. Haygood has penned a book based on his interviews and time spent with Allen, so I suppose that’s the next best thing: