Alisha Harris of www.theslate.com wrote this amazing story on the real life Butler, Eugene Allen. His life was the bases of the the book, The Butler: A Witness to History by Wil Haygood. Alisha writes:
A few days after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the Washington Post published an article about a black butler who served in the White House for 34 years, under eight presidents, from Truman to Reagan. Eugene Allen represented, as journalist Wil Haygood wrote, “a story from the back pages of history. A figure in the tiniest of print. The man in the kitchen.”
“He was there,” Haygood continued, “while America’s racial history was being remade: Brown v. Board of Education, the Little Rock school crisis, the 1963 March on Washington, the cities burning, the civil rights bills, the assassinations.” Allen undoubtedly lived a fascinating life, meeting countless historical figures during especially polarizing times, and it’s unsurprising that Haygood’s profile caught the eye of Hollywood. It is now the basis for Lee Daniels’ The Butler (the director’s name is included thanks to silly copyright claims made by Warner Bros).
But as interesting as Haygood’s profile is, “A Butler Well Served by This Election” doesn’t provide that many details about Allen’s time in the White House outside a handful of facts and humorous anecdotes. The Butler is a bit more than 2 hours long, spans several decades, and includes multiple storylines. It’s fair to say it has epic ambitions.
So how much of Allen’s real-life experience actually made it into the film?
Not much. According to Daniels’ foreword in The Butler: A Witness to History, a book by Haygood published to accompany the film, the movie “is set against historical events,” but “the title character and his family are fictionalized.” The skeleton of Allen’s story is there: the childhood on a plantation in the early 1920s, the interactions with several presidents. But the names have been changed: Allen and his wife, Helene, are called Cecil and Gloria Gaines. (They’re played by Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.) At least one key character, Cecil’s son Louis (David Oyelowo), is entirely made up.
To following breakdown based on Haygood’s profile and the accompanying book log on to www.theslate.com.