Character actor Michael Shannon has been nominated for his second Oscar for his role in the 2016 thriller Nocturnal Animals. "No Small Parts" takes a look at some of the other characters he's played in the past.
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A black voodoo priestess comes out of the Louisiana swamps to take revenge on the white plantation owner she believes killed her husband.
This was produced by some small independent company called Pinnacle. It's a production company that distributed a handful of these plantation movies in the 20s and 30s. Some other reviewer here who obviously has an ax to grind, claims the black actors are played by white people.
He probably thinks the Amos & Andy TV show featured white actors in blackface too. To be fair, there are two characters who are supposed to be black but are white.
The title character, Chloe is supposed to be of mixed race and she is played by a famous silent film star. This is her last picture. Her star had dimmed and she wound up first joining the army (WACS) after this film and years later was found scrubbing floors for a living. In 1947, at the age of 40, she died of a "stomach ailment" at the Sunshine Mission - a home for destitute women on Los Angeles' Skid Row.
One of her two love interests is white too, playing a black man.
If you really examine the film, the white characters are all stereotypes -- rich, sauntering around in white suits drinking frilly drinks talking about their deals. While a few others are working class with hillbilly accents. The black characters are largely silent and working plantation. Except for the voodoo priestess who has a fair amount of dialog. This women was up for the role of Mammy in Gone with the Wind.
What I'm saying is this: the film is far more complicated than just a knee jerk response of saying all the blacks are stereotypes. Everybody in this movie is a stereo type of some sort.
And casting a white actress (probably because she was a real star at one time, hence an audience draw) would make it hard back then to cast a true black man as a romantic interest. Conversely, how could they cast a black actress with a white love interest in 1934?
To a degree you can almost make the case that this movie is an allegory for the unfairness of race relations. In today's world of political correctness I suppose few are willing to look beyond a kool-aide drinking response to the content of the movie.
Chloe and white Reed fall in love because of what's inside, not because of race or wealth or anything else.
So is it a good movie? To be honest, the available prints are bad. The focus is off and the sound is poor, so it's a wee bit difficult to follow the story. At some point we find out that Chloe is actually the colonel's lost daughter who disappeared at birth. But the Colonel welcomes her with open arms, and that's likely not to happen if she was half black in those times.
The women in the film are the ones to question whether or not Chloe is really the colonel's daughter, saying "she's so dark." Again a comment on racist mindsets and small minded people.
I found the movie to be very watchable despite to poor print quality. I think it deserves a new look, perhaps with a complete print. The DVD prints have 8 minutes cut out of them and one wonders what's in those 8 minutes!
Some reviewers have said it's typical that the white man comes out on top in this movie, but the real moral of the movie is that love comes out on top.
If you have an open mind and are sick of people with an agenda, take a look at this movie. It's not a great film, but it's an interesting curio piece that probably deserves to be restored.
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