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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Body & Soul (1924), The Scar of Shame (1927), Within Our Gates, Symbol Of the Unconquered (1920)

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

2 films on 1 no-region DVD.
In DVD/CD sleeve, photo label.
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2 Silent films by Oscar Micheaux 1st African American film-maker ... Within Our Gates & Symbol Of the Unconquered (1920) 1 DVD

Within Our Gates (1920) is a silent film by the director Oscar Micheaux that portrays the contemporary racial situation in the United States during the early twentieth century, the years of Jim Crow, the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, the Great Migration of blacks to cities of the North and Midwest, and the emergence of the "New Negro". It was part of a genre called race films.

The plot features an African-American woman who goes North in an effort to raise money for a rural school in the Deep South for poor Black children. Her romance with a black doctor eventually leads to revelations about her family's past and her own mixed-race, European ancestry. The film portrays racial violence under white supremacy, and the lynching of a black man. Produced, written and directed by Oscar Micheaux in 1919 and released in 1920, it is the oldest known surviving film made by an African-American director.

Evelyn Preer as Sylvia Landry
Flo Clements as Alma Prichard
James D. Ruffin as Conrad Drebert
Jack Chenault as Larry Prichard
William Smith as Detective Philip Gentry
Charles D. Lucas as Dr. V. Vivian
S.T. Jacks as Reverend Wilson Jacobs (uncredited).

Running time: 1 hour 17 minutes

The Symbol Of the Unconquered (1920)

In this silent film, a black heiress fights off the Ku Klux Klan to save her land. (1 of the 2 films Oscar Micheaux filmed as a 'response' to The Birth of A Nation)

The Symbol of the Unconquered (aka:The Wilderness Trail) is a 1920 silent "race film" drama produced, written and directed by Oscar Micheaux. It is Micheaux's fourth feature length film and along with Within Our Gates is amongst his earliest surviving works. This film was made at Fort Lee New Jersey and released by Micheaux on November 29, 1920. Extant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Producer: Oscar Micheaux

Iris Hall - Eve Mason
Walker Thompson - Hugh Van Allen
Lawrence Chenault - Jefferson Driscoll

Running time: 58 minutes

1 no-region DVD in DVD/CD sleeve, photo label.
Guaranteed, replaced with same title.

Oscar Micheaux is remembered today as the first African-American filmmaker and as an outstanding entrepreneur of the early film industry. His films, some of which have been lost, include The Homesteader (1919), Within Our Gates (1920), The Symbol of the Unconquered (1920), and Body and Soul (1925), and range from mysteries to westerns, from political commentaries to musicals.

Both of his 1920 films -- Within Our Gates and The Symbol of the Unconquered -- respond directly to D.W. Griffith's groundbreaking celebration of the Ku Klux Klan, The Birth of a Nation (1915).

In answer to the several climactic scenes of attempted rape of white women by Black men around which the story of The Birth of a Nation centers, in Within Our Gates Micheaux flips the scene with a depiction of the victim as a Black woman and the perpetrator as a white man. The central section of The Symbol of the Unconquered, currently lost, hinges on the Black community's success in repelling a raid by the KKK, and much of the story serves to discredit the Klan's claims of justification for their violence against African-American communities.

While many of Micheaux's films are classified as "Race Films," filmed for an African-American audience and shown in segregated, "colored only" theaters, Micheaux's films -- especially his earlier works -- reached an audience which included whites.

His celebration of middle-class African-American experience provided hope for better times to come, and his practice of spreading blame across a racially diverse group of villanous characters (rather than directly pointing the finger at the white community as a whole) is an indication of his political sensibilities as a follower of Booker T. Washington.

PAY here (CLICK link) for $7.99 DVDs (USA & International)
1 DVD in DVD/CD sleeve, photo label. Guaranteed, replaced with same title.
AFTER you make payment – please email damienrecords@gmail.com to advise your titles.
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PAY here (CLICK link) for $9.99 DVDs (USA & International)
2 DVDs in DVD/CD sleeve, photo label. Guaranteed, replaced with same title.
AFTER you make payment – please email damienrecords@gmail.com to advise your titles.
You will receive an acknowledgment via email. Your DVDs will mail next day AFTER payment is received.