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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Body & Soul (1924) Paul Robeson film debut, The Scar of Shame (1927)

Body and Soul (1924) Paul Robeson film debut

Body and Soul is a 1925 race film produced, written, directed, and distributed by Oscar Micheaux and starring Paul Robeson in his motion picture debut.

An escaped prisoner seeks refuge in the predominantly African American town of Tatesville, Georgia, by passing himself off as the Rt. Reverend Isaiah T. Jenkins. He is joined in town by a fellow criminal, and the pair scheme to swindle the phony reverend's congregation of their offerings.

Jenkins falls in love with a young member of his congregation, Isabelle Perkins, even though she is in love with a poor young man named Sylvester, who happens to be Jenkins’ long-estranged twin brother. Jenkins steals money from Martha Jane, Isabelle's mother and convinces the young woman to take the blame for his crime. She flees to Atlanta and dies just as her mother locates her. Returning to Tatesville, Isabelle's mother confronts Jenkins in front of the congregation. Jenkins flees and during a twilight struggle he kills a man who tries to bring him to justice.

The following morning, Martha Jane awakens and realizes the episode with Jenkins was only a dream. She provides Isabelle (who is not dead) and Sylvester with the funds to start a married life together.

Directed & Produced by Oscar Micheaux
Written by Oscar Micheaux (novel and screenplay)
Starring Paul Robeson, Mercedes Gilbert, Julia Theresa Russell
Distributed by Micheaux Film Corporation
Release date: November 9, 1925
Running time: 1 hour 19 miutes

The Scar Of Shame (1927) Colored Players Film Corporation silent film
An educated, upscale young black musician marries a woman from a lower socioeconomic class to get her out of the clutches of her stepfather, who beats and abuses her.
The Scar of Shame is a silent film which was filmed in 1926 and released in 1927.

It was produced by the Colored Players Film Corporation of Philadelphia, in one of the earliest examples of "race movies", in which an entirely black cast performed a feature film specifically for a black audience. The film was produced and written by David Starkman and was directed by Frank Peregini, both white.

The Scar of Shame was a black silent melodrama with black actors written for a predominately black Audience. Melodramas were the genre of choice for early 20th century filmmakers.

This film emerged during a time of great breakthroughs in not only African American film but all art with the Harlem Renaissance when “a new sense of black consciousness emerged” likely after witnessing the bravery of African American soldiers in World War I. This was a collaboration of a “black cast, white crew and interracial production team” produced by the conspicuously named “Colored Players” who were mostly white, in 1927.

The Scar of Shame was one of the only three films produced by this company which was founded in 1926 in Philadelphia by a generous investment.

In Jane Gaine’s article on “Skin Color and Caste in Black Melodrama,” she claims that the film mostly takes its substance from D.W. Griffith’s films: Intolerance (1916) and Broken Blossoms (1919). Both of these Griffith classics starred Lillian Gish.

There are undeniable similarities between the films with scenes such as Spike beating Louise matching up remarkably with paternal beatings of the character Lucy (Lillian Gish) in Broken Blossoms.

Harry Henderson - Alvin Hillyard
Norman Johnstone - Eddie Blake
Ann Kennedy - Mrs. Lucretia Green
Lucia Lynn Moses - Louise Howard
William E. Pettus - Spike Howard
Lawrence Chenault - Ralph Hathaway
Pearl McCormack - Miss Alice Hathaway

Original Music Score by Brian Pinette
1 hour 17 minutes

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