In the pre-Civil War South, a sadistic plantation-owner brutalizes his slaves to the point of them heaving no other choice but to rebel. Always obedient, peaceful and honest old slave Tom plays a central role in this tragedy.
Géza von Radványi
Well I didn't think I'd like this one but it turned out to be pretty good and with a few terrific performances. Based on the 1852 novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, this silent film is a grand melodrama with all the trimmings and includes some of the most famous characters and scenes in American literature. Oddly there has never been an American talkie version of this classic.
Released by Universal with a "no-star" cast, the film captures most of the highlights from the novel, including Eliza's flight across the frozen river pursued by bloodhounds (very well done), the death of Little Eva, and the villainous Simon Legree. The film gets better as it goes along building to the death of the villain.
Notable perhaps as one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to cast a Black actor in a major role (James B. Lowe as Uncle Tom), most of the other parts are also played by Black actors (but I suspect a few were whites in black face).
Margarita Fisher (in her final film) stars as Eliza, 10-year-old Virginia Grey in her film debut plays Little Eva, George Siegmann is a terrific Simon, Lucien Littlefield is the lawyer, Aileen Manning is Aunt Ophelia, Mona Ray is Topsy, and Eulalie Jensen is wonderful as Cassy. I spotted Clarence Wilson among the auction bidders; Louise Beavers is an extra.
The film was not a great success and Universal lost money but it remains as an interesting film version of the biggest-selling book of the 19th century. I taped this from TCM's May series on Blacks in films......
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