Black History Month-The Forgotten Cinemaby horn-5 | created - 21 Feb 2014 | updated - 23 Feb 2014 | Public
Once upon a time, shamefully in the not-too-distant past, African-Americans were barred from many of the movie theatres(12,000 to 19,000 depending on the years) in America circa the silent-film-era inro the 1950s. And, if not barred, still faced seating in segregated sections (parts of the balcony) or attending on designated "Negro Nights." To offset that, most cities of 25,000 or more had Negro Theatres in their other-side-of-the- tracks area. That also inspired the making of *race movies* or all-black-cast films. A large percentage oif those were produced by black-owned companies such as Oscar Micheaux Productions or The Normandy Film Mfg.Company, but even more came from white-owned Poverty Row companies. Many of the all-black films featured the same stereotyped-racist roles as those that black performers were relegated to in the main-stream films from Hollywood. But they also provided the African-American community to see black actors perform roles other than Mammies and Feet-do-your-stuff.
This is a list of all-black-cast films (there were hundreds of those) made specifically for "Black" theatres. Assuming that only a small percentage have ever seen even one of these films...
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Which film, based on plot and cast, would you put on your like-to-see list?
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1. Moon Over Harlem (1939)
Not Rated | 69 min | Crime, Drama, Romance
Musical numbers highlight this story of a wealthy widow who disowns her daughter after a new man enters her life.
Gangster marries world's kindest, most charitable woman, scams money from her while coming on to her daughter. When gangster is caught by his wife attempting to rape the daughter, he lies and blames the girl. Driven from her mother's home, the girl turns to show business to make a living. (Directed by cult-favorite Edgar G. Ulmer and, aside from the cast, mostly an all-white production crew.)
2. Harlem Rides the Range (1939)
56 min | Western
A cowboy and his sidekick try to help a homesteader from being cheated out of his property.
“ "Me and him's buddies, and when you suspicions him, you suspicions me". (Two black writers and an all-white Poverty Row production crew)
3. Gang War (1940)
Approved | 63 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Two mobs fight for control of the jukebox racket.
Another all-black-cast from the all-white Million Dollar Productions.
4. The Bronze Buckaroo (1939)
Approved | 58 min | Action, Adventure, Music
Bob Blake and his boys arrive at Joe Jackson's ranch to find him missing. While Slim cheats Dusty out of his money using ventriloquism and marked cards, Blake tries to find Jackson. ... See full summary »
Herbert Jeffrey(Herb Jeffries) rides again in yet another all-black-cast remake of an all-white Fred Scott B-western from producer Jed Buell.
5. Spirit of Youth (1938)
Approved | 66 min | Biography, Drama, Sport
The story of the rise of boxer Joe Thomas, which paralleled the life of Joe Louis.
Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis, in his prime, gives the black community a hero of their own. If they could find a theatre to watch it in.
6. Mystery in Swing (1940)
Passed | 76 min | Action, Adventure, Music
In and around some great blues, swing and jazz music, a very unpopular band-leader. Prince Ellis, is killed in a Harlem nightclub, and, in and around some more great music, a detective ... See full summary »
With a 100 Per Cent ALL-STAR COLORED CAST! (original poster)...(produced by a 100% all-white production company)
7. Paradise in Harlem (1939)
85 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical
Between swing and blues musical numbers, the story of comedian Lem Anderson, whose long-awaited chance to act dramatically vanishes when he witnesses a mob killing and is forced to leave ... See full summary »
(Subjective) Tagline: Greatest Colored Cast Ever Assembled in One Picture
8. Lady Luck (1942)
Approved | 61 min | Comedy, Thriller
Two down-on-their luck friends suddenly hit the "jackpot" when they win the clothes, car and chauffeur of a rich man in a game of dice. They wind up in a sanitarium that's being used as an ... See full summary »
The comedy team of Moreland & Miller(Mantan Moreland and F. E. Miller) could give Abbott & Costello lessons in comedic timing.
9. Murder with Music (1941)
Not Rated | 59 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama
The beautiful Nellie Hill has many admirers but when one of them gets killed all the others are suspected. All this in among some great singing and dancing, some great bands and songs. This... See full summary »
I'll wash and dry your dishes. I'll clean and make your bed. I'll work and slave around you 'Til my face turns cherry red.
10. Dark Manhattan (1937)
Approved | 70 min | Crime, Drama
A low-level gangster determines to let nothing stand in the way of his gaining control of the numbers rackets in Harlem.
An early film for Roy Glenn, whose roles were usualy an uncredited Native Chief in Jungle Jim films, thirty years later played a very-credited role, as Sidney Poitier's father in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." And held his own at the table with Tracy and Hepburn.
11. The Black King (1932)
72 min | Comedy, Drama, Music
An unscrupulous minister starts a 'back to Africa' movement.
The film is based on the career of Marcus Garvey, who organized a Back-to- Africa movement among blacks in the United States, and is not an "All-Black-Cast" film, as there are white actors, including the director/producer Bud Pollard, playing some minor, uncredited roles. Deacon "Charcoal" Johnson is heading a Back-to-Africa group and raising funds (to his pockets, mostly) all the way from Logan, Mississippi to New York City's Harlem, where a procession of Johnson's followers and elite troops parade to the music of Victor Herbert's "March of the Wooden Soldiers."
- Written by Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
13. Swing! (1938)
69 min | Musical, Drama
Ted Gregory is trying to be the first black producer to mount a show on Broadway, but he has trouble with his star singer.
A low-budget *race film* version of "42nd Street" featuring some of the Cotton Club and Appolo Theatre acts of the period.
14. The Girl from Chicago (1932)
70 min | Crime, Drama
An undercover government agent on a case in Mississipi meets and falls in love with a beautiful young woman who's being menaced by a local crime boss. He rescues the girl, and they leave ... See full summary »
Film debut of Juano Hernandez.
15. The Flying Ace (1926)
65 min | Adventure, Crime, War
A veteran World War I fighter pilot returns home a war hero and immediately regains his former job as a railroad company detective. His first case: recover a stolen satchel filled with ... See full summary »
The character of Ruth Sawtelle is allegedly based on African American aviatrix Bessie Coleman, the first African American person to hold an international pilot's license.
16. Bubbling Over (1934)
Passed | 20 min | Short, Comedy, Music
One of only two Ethel Waters films from her cabaret-days, in Harlem, with a plot that may have served for the 1940 Broadway musical "Cabin in the Sky", later made as an all-black cast feature film by MGM in 1943. The latter was not a film made for the black-community theatres.
17. Reet, Petite, and Gone (1947)
67 min | Musical
Old-time musical star Schyler Jarvis, now wealthy, is dying; his last act is a visionary plan for the future happiness of his son, swing bandleader Louis Jarvis, and Honey Carter, daughter ... See full summary »
Rusty: But you could learn to love me, darling.
Louis Jarvis: I can't afford the lesson!
18. The Devil's Daughter (1939)
Approved | 52 min | Drama, Horror
Sylvia Walton returns from Harlem to take over a Jamaican plantation from her vindictive half-sister, amid the growing sound of drums.
Sister against Sister IN A BURNING DRAMA OF LOVE AND HATE IN THE TROPICS!
19. Double Deal (1939)
Approved | 60 min | Action, Comedy, Crime
Tommy McCoy and "Dude" Markey are both in love with Harlem singer/dancer Nita. Markey robs a jewelry store and turns the loot over to gang-boss Murray Howard. Later, Markey robs the safe, ... See full summary »
20. Murder on Lenox Avenue (1941)
Not Rated | 65 min | Drama
Dramatic events in a Harlem apartment house center around Pa Wilkins, chosen by the Better Business League to replace their ousted, crooked leader Marshall...who wants revenge; and Pa's ... See full summary »
Features two of the greatest Black Cinema singers, Mamie Smith and Edna Mae Harris.
21. Sunday Sinners (1940)
65 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical
Edna Mae Harris and Mamie Smith sing again but, alas, only for a very small audience.
22. Lying Lips (1939)
Not Rated | 80 min | Drama, Music
A nightclub singer refuses to "date" customers, so she's framed for the murder of her aunt, convicted of the killing and sent to prison. However, her friend, who is a police detective, ... See full summary »
Features Edna Mae Harris and Robert Earl Jones (father of James Earl Jones).
23. Chloe, Love Is Calling You (1934)
62 min | Horror
A black voodoo priestess comes out of the Louisians swamps to take revenge on the white plantation owner she believes killed her husband.
A bottom-of-the-barrel, poverty row, mixed-cast film that got more play in *black theatres* than in those it was intended for...
24. Juke Joint (1947)
Not Rated | 68 min | Comedy, Drama
Two insolvent con men get involved in a small town beauty contest.
The Joint is Jumpin'! / The Jive is Jivvin'! / The Jam is Jammin'! / Everybody's High in the Happy Slap-Happy Holiday Family!
25. Souls of Sin (1949)
Not Rated | 64 min | Drama
Unsuccessful gambler 'Dollar Bill' Burton lives in a crummy New York basement room with old friend Bob and a new roommate, friendly blues singer 'Alabama' Lee. But, tired of being broke, ... See full summary »
Guns Bark As Rival Gangs Fight For Power!
26. Go Down, Death! (1945)
56 min | Drama
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.
Actor/director/writer Spencer Williams , on a nothing budget, displays a talent that, shamefully, never got beyond the segregation barrier.
27. The Notorious Elinor Lee (1940)
107 min | Drama
Gangsters use a woman to get to a boxer and convince him to throw a big fight.
Robert Earl Jones in one of the best of the *race movies*.
28. The Girl in Room 20 (1946)
63 min | Drama
A rural girl comes to the big city to pursue a singing career, and is befriended by paternal cab drivers and down-and-out show troupers, and preyed upon by an adulterous pimp.
A girl from Texas goes to New York City with hopes of joining the choir of an all-black Baptist church. but becomes a call-girl for Madam Mamie in Harlem.
29. Hi De Ho (1947)
PG | 72 min | Musical
Cab Calloway plays himself in a plot about jealousy, night clubs, and gangsters. Ends with a series of musical numbers.
Cab Calloway's spurned girlfriend seeks revenge.
30. The Duke Is Tops (1938)
Approved | 73 min | Musical
A theatrical producer puts aside his own success to boost the career of a talented singer.
A Lena Horne showcase, or as much as could be done on a low-budget *racefilm.*
31. Look-Out Sister (1947)
Approved | 63 min | Music, Western
A famous bandleader, suffering from overwork and exhaustion, goes to a sanitarium for a rest. While there he dreams of being out west at a dude ranch, where he finds himself involved in the... See full summary »
When he's not singin', he's shootin'. When he's not shootin', he's lovin'!
32. Midnight Shadow (1939)
Approved | 54 min | Mystery
In a quiet, all-black Oklahoma community live the Wilsons, whose pretty daughter Margaret is courted by awkward Buster and suave stage mentalist Prince Alihabad. On one busy night, Mr. ... See full summary »
A correspondence-school detective on the trail of a killer.