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Way Down South (1939)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Music  |  21 July 1939 (USA)
5.5
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Ratings: 5.5/10 from 140 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 5 critic

In the pre-Civil War South, a plantation owner dies and leaves all his possessions, including his slaves, to his young son. While the deceased treated his slaves decently, his corrupt ... See full summary »

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(original story and screenplay), (original story and screenplay)
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Title: Way Down South (1939)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »

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Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
Bobby Breen ...
Timothy Reid Jr.
...
Jacques Bouton
...
Timothy Reid Sr.
Steffi Duna ...
Pauline
...
Uncle Caton
...
Claire Bouton
...
Martin Dill
...
Cass
Robert Greig ...
Judge Ravenal
Lillian Yarbo ...
Janie
Matthew 'Stymie' Beard ...
Gumbo (as Stymie Beard)
Hall Johnson Choir
Edit

Storyline

In the pre-Civil War South, a plantation owner dies and leaves all his possessions, including his slaves, to his young son. While the deceased treated his slaves decently, his corrupt executor abuses them unmercifully, beating them without provocation, and he is planning to sell off the father'e estate--including the slaves--at the earliest opportunity so he and his mistress can steal the money and move to France. The young boy doesn't want to sell his father's estate or break up an of the slave families, and he has to find someone to help him thwart the crooked executor's plans. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

HELP YOURSELF TO HAPPINESS! HERE'S A WHILE SHOW-FULL! (original poster - all caps)

Genres:

Crime | Music

Certificate:

Approved
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

21 July 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La strada del sud  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Soundtracks

Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel?
(uncredited)
Traditional Negro spiritual
Sung by Clarence Muse and the Hall Johnson Choir
See more »

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User Reviews

 
"Master Reid ain't never whipped nobody."
18 June 2015 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

An orphan in pre-Civil War Louisiana fights to save his late father's plantation (and his slave friends!) from a crooked lawyer's machinations. Oh boy will this one set some alarms off today. Probably the only reasons it isn't more hated is that (a) it is not as well-known as, say, Song of the South and (b) the script was written by two black men -- noted poet Langston Hughes and actor Clarence Muse, who also appears in this film as Uncle Caton. The star of the movie is Bobby Breen, a Canadian-born soprano with a brief acting career who is just about the corniest thing I've ever seen. The rest of the cast includes Alan Mowbray, Ralph Morgan, Matthew 'Stymie' Beard, Sally Blane, Edwin Maxwell, and the aforementioned Clarence Muse, who is probably the best part of the film.

It's not a bad movie if one can put aside one's political correctness. The short runtime helps. I'm not saying it's great or anything. Breen is an acquired taste and the depiction of slavery is...well, controversial is the kindest way of putting it. That being said, the slaves are positive sympathetic characters all and written with more respect than is usual for the period. That is likely thanks to Hughes and Muse. One also has to wonder if some hidden meaning was in the scene where Ralph Morgan's "friendly massa" character dies. Watch and you'll probably see what I mean. There's some singing, as you might expect from a movie starring a boy soprano. Frankly, I enjoyed the singing from the Hall Johnson Choir more than Breen. The historical qualities of the film alone should warrant viewing but it does have entertainment value, as well. I encourage everyone who is interested to give it a shot and judge for yourself instead of making up your mind before seeing it. The same goes for any old film that is considered controversial or offensive today.


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