IMDb > Way Down South (1939)

Way Down South (1939) More at IMDbPro »

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Way Down South -- Musical - life in the south complete with all the things you would expect in 1939.


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5.5/10   123 votes »
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Up 21% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Clarence Muse (original story and screenplay) and
Langston Hughes (original story and screenplay)
View company contact information for Way Down South on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
21 July 1939 (USA) See more »
In the pre-Civil War South, a plantation owner dies and leaves all his possessions, including his slaves... See more » | Add synopsis »
Nominated for Oscar. See more »
User Reviews:
Weird and politically incorrect but entertaining... See more (8 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)
Bobby Breen ... Timothy Reid Jr.

Alan Mowbray ... Jacques Bouton

Ralph Morgan ... Timothy Reid Sr.
Steffi Duna ... Pauline

Clarence Muse ... Uncle Caton

Sally Blane ... Claire Bouton

Edwin Maxwell ... Martin Dill

Charles Middleton ... Cass
Robert Greig ... Judge Ravenal
Lillian Yarbo ... Janie
Matthew 'Stymie' Beard ... Gumbo (as Stymie Beard)
Hall Johnson Choir
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Willie Best ... Chimney Sweep (uncredited)
Stanley Blystone ... Slave Auctioneer (uncredited)
Mildred Boyd ... Dancing Slave (uncredited)
Don Brodie ... Slave Buyer (uncredited)
Jack Carr ... Luke (uncredited)
Ed Cassidy ... Slave Trader (uncredited)
Jack Clisby ... Servant (uncredited)
Charles Dixon ... Drummer (uncredited)
Ruby Elzy ... Singer in Hall Johnson Choir (uncredited)
Louise Franklin ... Dancing Slave (uncredited)
Freddie Jackson ... Servant (uncredited)
Lillian Randolph ... Slave (uncredited)
Blue Washington ... Slave (uncredited)
Marguerite Whitten ... Lulu (uncredited)

Directed by
Leslie Goodwins 
Bernard Vorhaus 
Writing credits
Clarence Muse (original story and screenplay) and
Langston Hughes (original story and screenplay)

Produced by
Sol Lesser .... producer
Barney Briskin .... associate producer (uncredited)
Original Music by
Victor Young (uncredited)
Cinematography by
Charles Edgar Schoenbaum (photography) (as Charles Schoenbaum)
Film Editing by
Arthur Hilton (film editor)
Art Direction by
Lewis J. Rachmil 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
John Sherwood .... assistant director
Lee Sholem .... assistant director (uncredited)
Sound Department
Richard Van Hessen .... sound technician
Special Effects by
Vernon L. Walker .... special effects (uncredited)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Albert Deano .... wardrobe (as Albert Deanno)
Music Department
Hall Johnson .... vocal arrangements
Victor Young .... musical direction
Other crew
Clarence Muse .... dance director (uncredited)
Clarence Muse .... technical advisor (uncredited)
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
61 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (RCA Victor System)
USA:Approved (PCA #5414)

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Nobody PraySee more »


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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful.
Weird and politically incorrect but entertaining..., 23 February 2013
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida

"Way Down South" is based on a story by Langston Hughes and the screenplay was written by Clarence Muse--who also was a major character in the film. "Way Down South" is bound to play a lot differently today than when it debuted in 1939. The notion of happy and well-fed slaves is far from politically correct and I am sure many will blanch at this antiquated view of the Old South. While I am sure some slave owners were more benign in how their treated blacks, they still were slaves!! Oddly, Hughes and Muse were black men and, in an odd way, the film was progressive for its time as it promoted fair treatment of blacks...but they still were slaves!!

The film stars one of the more unusual stars in Hollywood history, Bobby Breen. Breen was a child star who only appeared in nine films--though they were starring roles. His AMAZING voice cannot be described--you just need to see and hear him for yourself. The films he made were mostly pleasant but forgettable pictures--though it's easy to like the boy in the films as he always seemed incredibly nice.

When the film begins, Bobby is very happy and the family's slaves on the plantation are equally happy. In fact, Bobby's best friend is one of the slaves (Stymie Beard of the Our Gang films)! But, when Bobby's father dies unexpectedly, his father's executor comes in and dramatically changes the place--selling slaves and beating them soundly. But Bobby can't stand to see his friends treated that way. Plus, what he doesn't know is that the executor actually is planning on taking EVERYTHING for himself! What's to happen of Bobby and the happy slaves?! This is an odd film in that it IS entertaining but it is a bit uncomfortable as well due to the odd subject matter. Well made but weird...that's for sure!

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