Blacks Not Stereotyped in Ulmer's Moon Over Harlem
Gangster marries world's kindest, most charitable woman, scams money from her while coming on to her daughter. When gangster is caught by his wife attempting to rape the daughter, he lies and blames the girl. Driven from her mother's home, the girl turns to show business to make a living.
Performances vary from extraordinary (Cora Green) to unusual (Percy Harris) to just plain amateur night. According to the publicity accompanying the dvd of this film, Ulmer made it for $8,000. It seems hard to believe since there are many sets and crowds of people.
Edgar Ulmer's 1939 black programmer was almost lost forever. Several versions of the film were found and re-mastered into a dvd which is at best fair. It is frequently hard to hear and there are occasional bewildering cuts. If you see this movie, remember it was made in the same year as "Gone With the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz."
The best thing about the movie is it's display of a black working/middle class far from the "street" folks many people tend to associate with Harlem. The movie is never condescending and never portrays blacks as seterotypes. As a glimpse into the life of the average black family in New York in the late '30's, Moon Over Harlem, while it fails as drama, succeeds as history lesson.
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