Spencer Williams' The Girl in Room 20 was a pretty entertaining show biz tale
Continuing to review films featuring African-Americans in chronological order for Black History Month, we're now at 1946 when director/actor Spencer Williams has put out another of his "race movies" for a black audience in segregated area theatres. Here, he plays a kindly cab driver named Joe Phillips who helps a naive country girl-and aspiring singer-named Daisy Mae Walker (Geraldine Brock) avoid the more sleazy types in New York City in order to be friends with the right show business types and living in the most friendly, if a little cheap, hotel. Despite that, there's still some unsavory types that manage to snag her though when her boyfriend, Dunbar Hamilton (R. Jore), from back home comes over, things threaten to take a violent turn...Ms. Brock's singing voice is very pleasant whether singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" (a song ironically used to parody the typical Negro song in films like Blazing Saddles and Revenge of the Nerds) or another song-"Danny Boy"-whose melody I recognized but not the lyrics. And after just seeing Williams portray a sleazy bar owner in his Go Down, Death!, it was a nice change of pace watching him here as the nicest character here. The film itself has an amateurish feel throughout especially during a fight scene when-after seeing the two men struggle-the only way you'd know how rough things are is by hearing the loud sound effects while the camera is on Williams or Ms. Brock reacting. Still, the story is good despite the contrivance of the end scene and this is a pleasant enough viewing experience for me. So on that note, I recommend The Girl in Room 20. P.S. One of the players here is one Myra D. Hemmings who's a mentor of Ms. Brock and had previously appeared in the aforementioned Go Down, Death! And the film on the DVD disc I played began with an intro narrated by Ossie Davis about The Tyler-Texas Black Film Collection which had several once-lost "race movies" from the '30s and '40s discovered in an abandoned warehouse there one night in August 1983 by a Dr. Gene Wiken Jones, a Southern Methodist University Professor and Director of Southwest Film Video Archives.
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