This documentary presents clips from black films from 1929 through 1957. Musical performers include Paul Robeson (in Song of Freedom), Bessie Smith (St. Louis Blues), Eubie Blake and the ... See full summary »
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Billie Allen ...
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Albert Ammons ...
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Eubie Blake ...
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Clarence Brooks ...
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Francine Everett ...
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Stepin Fetchit ...
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William Greaves ...
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Alfred Hawkins ...
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This documentary presents clips from black films from 1929 through 1957. Musical performers include Paul Robeson (in Song of Freedom), Bessie Smith (St. Louis Blues), Eubie Blake and the Nicholas Brothers (Pie-Pie Blackbird), Lena Horne (Boogie Woogie Dream), Nat 'King' Cole (Killer Diller), Sammy Davis Jr. (Rufus Jones for President), Cab Calloway (Jitterbug Party), and Ethel Waters (Carib Gold). Dramatic excerpts include Murder in Harlem (1935), Juke Joint (1947), and Souls of Sin (1949). Also included are clips from white films stereotyping blacks, including Griffith's Birth of a Nation, and a blackfaced Bing Crosby in Crooner's Holiday (1934). Written by Robert Mandzi

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Features Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. (1946) See more »

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Very good documentary
18 March 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

William Greaves hosts this fascinating documentary about the underground black film made from the 1920s to the 1950s. Black people saw they were being portrayed negatively in Hollywood films so they went out to make their own films that showed them as they really were. These were made only to be shown in all-black cinemas (cinemas were segregated back then). Most of these films are gone forever but this shows clips from a number that are still around.

The movies spoke out against racism and the terrible conditions that black ghettos were in but--other than that--they were like any other Hollywood film. This film showed me some things I never knew like: How some Hollywood studios used white actors in black face to play black people because they didn't think black people could act! Bing Crosby is shown in one! Black actors had to go to Europe to get roles. Paul Robeson went to England to make movies---and he STILL found himself cast as a slave! Horribly negative stereotypes where shown in cartoons.

Lena Horne, Ethel Waters, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway all got their start in black independent films. Even Sammy Davis Jr. shown here at the age of 8 in his first film.

Very good and short (about 1 hour) docu on a subject most people are unaware of. Worth catching.


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