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Paradise in Harlem (1939)

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Between swing and blues musical numbers, the story of comedian Lem Anderson, whose long-awaited chance to act dramatically vanishes when he witnesses a mob killing and is forced to leave ... See full summary »



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Title: Paradise in Harlem (1939)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frank H. Wilson ...
Lem Anderson (as Frank Wilson)
Mamie Smith ...
Madame Mamie
Norman Astwood ...
Rough Jackson
Edna Mae Harris ...
Doll Davis
Merritt Smith ...
Ned Avery
Francine Everett ...
Desdemona Jones
Sidney Easton ...
Sneeze Ancrum (as Sydney Easton)
Babe Matthews ...
Laura Lou
Lionel Monagas ...
Matt Gilson
Madeline Belt ...
Acme Delight
Herman Green ...
Percy Verwayen ...
Spanish (as Percy Verwayne)
George Williams ...
Alec Lovejoy ...
Lucky Millinder ...
Himself - Bandleader (as Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra)


Between swing and blues musical numbers, the story of comedian Lem Anderson, whose long-awaited chance to act dramatically vanishes when he witnesses a mob killing and is forced to leave town. Lem becomes a wanderer, then an alcoholic. Finally a chance to play Othello draws him back to Harlem. Is it too late for Ned? Or too soon to suit Rough Jackson's mobsters? Melodramatic events lead to an unusual conclusion. Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Greatest Colored Cast Ever Assembled in One Picture See more »


Comedy | Drama | Musical





Release Date:

7 August 2003 (Switzerland)  »

Also Known As:

Othello in Harlem  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The train Lem returns on from Dixie to New York appears to be the Twentieth Century Limited hauled by a streamlined J3 Class 2-6-4 Hudson locomotive. See more »


Featured in Bluesland: A Portrait in American Music (1993) See more »


Written by Joe Thomas
Sung by Babe Matthews (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

Fascinating Look at Harlem in 1939
30 January 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The director, Joseph Seiden, started as a cinematographer in silents. In the 1930's and 40's he was the leading producer of Yiddish films in the United States. This was the first film that he directed. Seiden gets excellent performances from his cast. Some of it is stereotyped, but a great deal is honest, raw and human.

The movie is low budget, but has a documentary feel that adds to the realism. The story mixes gangsters with a Church trying to put on a version of "Othello," It isn't realistic, but it works as melodrama.

Frank H. Wilson is the star. He starred with Paul Robeson in the "Emperor Jones" in 1932 and with Rex Ingram and Eddie Rochester Anderson in "Green Pastures" in 1936. Sadly, he only played a few bit parts after this. He really creates a touching character as Lem Anderson, a vaudevillian trying to become a serious actor. He brings off the role with intelligence and sweetness.

Edna Mae Harris also stands out in a small but important role.

I believe that Orson Welles staged an all Black Othello in Harlem around the time that this movie was made. I'm pretty sure this film was partially based on that event.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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