4.7/10
128
6 user 5 critic

Moon Over Harlem (1939)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Romance | 31 October 1939 (USA)

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Writers:

(story), (screenplay) (as Sherle Castle) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Buddy Harris ...
Dollar Bill (as Bud Harris)
Cora Green ...
Minnie
Izinetta Wilcox ...
Sue
Earl Gough ...
Bob
Zerita Steptean ...
Jackie (as Zerita Stepteau)
Petrina Moore ...
Alice
Daphne Fray ...
Pat
Mercedes Gilbert ...
Jackie's mother
Frances Harrod ...
Maud
Alec Lovejoy ...
Fats
Walter Richardson ...
Brother Hornsby
Slim Thompson ...
Long-Boy
Freddie Robinson ...
Half-Pint
John Bunn ...
Wallstreet
Marieluise Bechet ...
Nina Mae Brown
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Storyline

Add Full Plot | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Powerful drama... Ripped from the heart of harlem!

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

31 October 1939 (USA)  »

Box Office

Budget:

$8,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Variray Blue Seal Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

To shoot this film on such a low budget, Edgar G. Ulmer shot this feature in 16mm using "short ends" (unexposed film at the end of a reel that was unused by the original purchaser). See more »

Connections

Featured in Edgar G. Ulmer - The Man Off-screen (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Stand Together Children
(1939)
Music and Lyrics by Donald Heywood
Published in connection with this movie and possibly used instrumentally
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Unique Portrayal of Harlem in 1939
14 July 2010 | by (Orlando, United States) – See all my reviews

This movie begins with a wedding and ends with a funeral, so one would expect it to be a tragedy. In fact, it is uplifting and exciting. This is actually an extraordinary portrayal of Harlem around the 1930's. It is the richest and most interesting portrayal of life recorded in that period. After watching hundreds of films where Afro-Americans are limited to cameo roles as smiling, dancing servants, it is exciting to see them portraying three dimensional people. Only King Vidor's "Cabin in the Sky" matches it for intensity and realism.

This film was shot in four days on an $8,000 budget by the cinema genius director, "King of the B's" Edgar Ulmer. It unfortunately has technical problems in the first reel, on the Platinum DVD, I watched. It was difficult to understand the dialog over the noisy soundtrack for about five minutes. However, the soundtrack improves quite significantly and the problem soon disappears.

The plot of the film is a political reformer (read "communist" in the subtext) fighting against a hoodlum who has been running an insurance=protection racket. This could have been totally stereotyped in lesser hands, but Ulmer and his screenwriter wife, Shirley, has been able to make both characters believable and interesting. The reformer really does love Harlem and really does want to unite black people. Even the gangster responds to this idea of unity, refusing to go along with the white gangsters who actually control crime in Harlem.

A couple of other amazing things about this film: it contains perhaps the first inter-racial romance and almost kiss (there is a cut just before the lips touch) and their is an incestuous sub-plot about a step-father lusting after his step-daughter.

This is a unique film and anybody who wants to see what the Golden age of Hollywood might have been like if it wasn't so racist should see it.


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