In this George Pal Puppetoon (production number U5-6), John Henry (voice of Rex Ingram), legendary figure of American folklore, goes to work for the C.& O. Railroad, which, shortly ...
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Porter's sequential continuity editing links several shots to form a narrative of firemen responding to a house fire. They leave the station with their horse drawn pumper, arrive on the ... See full summary »
George S. Fleming,
Edwin S. Porter
James H. White
In this George Pal Puppetoon (production number U5-6), John Henry (voice of Rex Ingram), legendary figure of American folklore, goes to work for the C.& O. Railroad, which, shortly thereafter, buys an automatic steel-driving engine, called the Inky-Poo. John Henry matches his strength against the Inky-Poo, saying that any man can beat a machine because a man has a mind. John Henry wins, but drops at the finish, never to rise again. The choral music background is by the Luvenia Nash Singers. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
This film was nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Short, though it lost to the MGM cartoon "The Cat Concerto". It also was named to the Library of Congresses list of films for preservation in 2015.
This version of "John Henry" was made with puppets by George Pal and is very good...as well as very odd. On the good side, the narration by Rex Ingram is lovely and it's nice to see this respected black actor get this opportunity. It's also nice to see a film where blacks are treated as normal folks...something very odd for the 1940s. On the other hand, the style film is pretty dated and assume most folks today would prefer the more conventional cartoon from Disney. It also features some odd content I didn't see in other versions--such as John Henry being some sort of magical being who was only a few weeks old when he went to work for the railroad driving spikes!
So is it worth seeing? Well, if you are a film historian or history lover, yes...by all means see it. But for the average person it will most likely be seen as pretty weird and pretty out of date.
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