Based on the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe: Eliza, a slave who has a young child, pleads with Tom, another slave, to escape with her. Tom does not leave, but Eliza flees with her child. ... See full summary »
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William A. Wellman
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This movie is the origin of the stereotypical "Uncle Tom" not Stowe's novel. The three dimensionality of the characters in the novel is virtually stripped away in this movie version. The awkward "smiles" and inappropriate laughter of the black characters caters to the post-Reconstruction mentality of the re-claimed South. Stowe's novel has a much more realistic treatment of characters from both regions. The poignant scene between Topsy and Eva is rendered cartoons in the movie. The faith connection between Tom and Eva is completely absent from the movie, yet one cannot appreciate the true nobility of their characters without seeing this bond between them brought about by a shared love of the world beyond. This movie does not properly capture the traditional paternalistic objectification of the slaves that the Master Shelby takes for granted and haunts Mrs. Shelby nor does it capture the "enlightened" position of Augustine St. Clare, who still is not moved to actually free his slaves until it is too late. George and Eliza's "priveliges" are virtually ignored in the movie, hence the contrast with these and the definitive reinforcement of their slave status at critical moments is lost. Legree is more of a Grimm-like ogre than the unbelievably inhumane monster of a man he is in the novel. This is a Jim Crow movie, Stowe's is not a Jim Crow novel. The South lost the war, but it won with this movie. It is a distant cousin to Griffith's "Birth of a Nation."
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