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Go Down, Death! (1944)

The owner of a juke joint arranges to frame an innocent preacher with a scandalous photograph, but his scheme backfires when his own adoptive mother interferes.



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Credited cast:
Myra D. Hemmings
Samuel H. James ...
Jasper - The Preacher
Eddye L. Houston
Spencer Williams ...
Big Jim Bottoms
Amos Droughan
Walter McMillion
Irene Campbell
Charlie Washington
Helen Butler
Dolly Jones
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jimmie Green
The Heavenly Choir
Jimmie Green's Orchestra


A bar owner attempts to discredit the new preacher with whom he is feuding by framing him with a photograph showing him drinking with women with bad reputations. The bar owner's adoptive mother, a member of the minister's church, supports the preacher and gets the photographic prints. When the bar owner struggles with his mother for the prints, he accidentally kills her. After the preacher's funeral sermon, the bar owner's conscience drives him to his death. Written by Gary Imhoff, gary@dcwatch.com

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Featured in Movies of Color: Black Southern Cinema (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

It's pretty bad...
23 February 2010 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

As an ex-history teacher, I understand why this film was so horrible. Black Americans were usually not allowed in White theaters in the US and many of the Hollywood films never made it to Black theaters. In addition, Black audiences didn't want to see films where there were either no Blacks or the only ones you did see were the sad stereotypical images--maids, butlers or the lazy Stepin Fetchit types. So I do understand why films like "Go Down, Death!" was made. I also know that there just wasn't much economic power in the community--so they couldn't afford to make big budget films. However, even in this context, you can't objectively say this is a good film. In other words, you may understand why it's so bad, but it's still very bad. Cringe-inducing bad, in fact.

The story is a very, very non-subtle religious film--sort of like a Tyler Perry film but with horrible production values. I like the idea of combining the strong religious values of the Black community with a contemporary story. It's just that the film is terrible...even for a 1940s Black-produced film. The story is about a disreputable gambler who has set out to destroy the preacher. His plan appears to be working--until it backfires and results in God's judgment on this wicked man. Here are a few reasons I disliked it: 1. At least 1/3 to 1/2 of the movie consists of the preacher preaching and the choir singing. This killed the film dramatically. It should have been much shorter--because the way it dominated the film ruined the drama.

2. The acting quite bad--even for Spencer Williams--who usually was a lot better. I've seen him in several other films of the day (before he gained fame playing Andy on "Amos 'n Andy" and he was good. Here, he isn't believable...and considering he also directed the film, he has no one else to blame.

3. The entire story is obvious and amateurish. The writing seems very, very poor and the dialog is bad.

Yet, despite it being a terrible film in almost every way, I don't say it has no value. As a record of the Black American experience of the era, it's invaluable. But, as entertainment, it's awful.

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