In a juke joint, sharecropper Zeke falls for a beautiful dancer, Chick, but she's only setting him up for a rigged craps game. He loses $100, the money he got for the sale of his family's ... See full summary »
In a juke joint, sharecropper Zeke falls for a beautiful dancer, Chick, but she's only setting him up for a rigged craps game. He loses $100, the money he got for the sale of his family's entire cotton crop. His brother Spunk is mortally wounded in the shoot-out which follows. Zeke goes away but returns as Brother Zekiel the preacher. His forceful preaching draws the faithful in large numbers. Even Chick wants to be saved. Zekiel has asked the pretty Missy Rose to marry him, but Chick can still cast a spell over the preacher... Written by
REALISTIC! EARTHY!...it pictures in dialogue and heart-stirring song the reckless love and the gripping drama of the Southern Negro...come to the dusky cabarets....the revivals and the baptisms. (original ad) See more »
In 1929, MGM began the process of converting to sound. They were almost the "latecomers" of sound conversion compared to their competitors over at the Warners lot; Warners' Vitaphone was pretty much in full swing by 1929 after having experimented with orchestral sound on film in 1926 in "The Better 'Ole" and "Don Juan" and then with actual voice embedment on film in "The Jazz Singer" the following year.
Even for such a major film studio like MGM, the cost was almost prohibitive, so Louis B. Mayer was skeptical about financing a major film epic featuring an all black cast. In the first half of the 20th Century, the major film studios catered mostly to white audiences, so a project of this nature was almost unheard of. Director, King Vidor was personally convinced that this film would be a success at the box office that he offered to match MGM dollar for dollar in producing this film. That said, the executives at MGM agreed, reluctantly, to take on this project.
I was totally surprised by the candidness of the material. From the way the major studios depicted black people as individuals of little or no importance, usually portraying them in a very negative way, I was at first skeptical. I expected more singing, dancing and stereotyping. Little did I know what a surprise I was in for! MGM could not have done a better job at portraying individuals with such humanistic qualities. As with most backdrops featuring blacks, it takes place in the cotton fields of the South; the motion picture industry failed miserably to depict black urban or middle class life until decades later.
Amazingly, most, if not all, of these actors were untested individuals on the screen or stage. Vidor's direction, along with these actors' willingness to succeed on the screen, created a work of art for the cinema. A huge box office success, "Hallelujah" was an oasis in an otherwise all-white world of big business cinema. It is a shame that the movie moguls at the time did not take further advantage of the acting talents of minorities.
Leonard Maltin could not have put it more succinctly when he said about Hallelujah: "King Vidor's early talkie triumph, a stylized view of black life focusing on a Southern cotton-picker who becomes a preacher but retains all-too-human weaknesses." Definitely a home run! A must see!
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