Columbia tells White House butler story

Eugene Allen held the job from 1952 to 1986

Columbia is bringing the story of Eugene Allen, a black man who served as a White House butler for 34 years, to the big screen.

Columbia has picked up Allen's life rights as well as the rights to a Washington Post article by Wil Haygood that was published Nov. 7, three days after Barack Obama was elected president. Laura Ziskin is producing.

Allen started at the White House as a "pantry man" in 1952 when blacks weren't allowed to use public restrooms in his native Virginia. He served presidents as racial history was being made, from Brown v. Board of Education to the 1963 march on Washington to the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy.

Allen left the job in 1986, when Ronald Reagan was in office.

Allen and his wife of 65 years talked and marveled at the fact that a black man could be president. But on Election Day, Allen cast his vote alone; his wife died the day before.

Haygood will act as an associate producer and help research the movie, working with family to bring out details of Allen's life. Allen's son Charles was instrumental in securing the deal, with ICM repping Haygood and the Allen family.

Ziskin, not known as a frivolous buyer of a material, said the movie would act "as a portrait of an extraordinary African-American man who has lived to see the world turn. It's about the essence of this man and what he saw, as well as the love story with his wife."

Matt Tolmach and Rachel O'Connor are overseeing for the studio.