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Borderline (1930)

Not Rated | | Drama | 13 October 1930 (UK)
A negro woman having an adulterous affair with a white man causes his wife to go mad and re-enforces the towns-folk's prejudice against Negroes.


Kenneth MacPherson (as Kenneth Macpherson)


Kenneth MacPherson (as Kenneth Macpherson)




Complete credited cast:
Paul Robeson ... Pete - a Negro
Eslanda Robeson Eslanda Robeson ... Adah - a Negro Woman
Hilda Doolittle Hilda Doolittle ... Astrid (as Helga Doorn)
Gavin Arthur Gavin Arthur ... Thorne - Her Husband
Charlotte Arthur Charlotte Arthur ... The Barmaid
Blanche Lewin Blanche Lewin ... The Old Lady


Adah, a black woman, has an affair with Thorne, a white man, much to the dismay of some of the prejudiced townsfolk and Thorne's wife, Astrid. Adah attempts a reconciliation with her man, Pete, but eventually leaves him and the town. Meanwhile, Astrid goes mad and cuts Thorne's face and arm with a knife, but then mysteriously dies. Thorne is tried but acquitted. Because of the events, the mayor sends Pete a letter asking him to leave town for the good of all concerned. Written by Arthur Hausner <genart@volcano.net>

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Not Rated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #371. See more »

Alternate Versions

A version with an organ accompaniment has been released by Rohauer Films, Inc. The music was composed and performed by Lee Erwin, and recorded at Carnegie Hall Cinema, New York. The running time is 63 minutes. See more »

User Reviews

20 November 2007 | by mangoloidSee all my reviews

In the fall of 1927, a British film magazine appeared titled "Close Up." Of its purposes, it was trying to elevate film to the status of "art", it was trying to promote the educational qualities of film, it was trying to kick the British film industry into high gear (indeed, all the articles lamenting the poor British film industry grow wearisome), etc., etc. Of these purposes, it was also championing the minorities, blacks in film being one of the main focuses of this purpose.

The brainchild behind this "Close Up" was a man named Kenneth MacPherson, whose name you'll also notice under the Writing and Directing credits of "Borderline", the film in question of this review.

I watched "Borderline" because I'm a fan of this old magazine. Back in these days, the writers had a much clearer sense of film and its potentials, and their writing has a pop and vigor, the type that would transform into the raging "wit" that today's writers pass off. With MacPherson, two others edited and contributed to "Close Up". The first of these is Winifred Ellerman, pen-name Bryher. The second is Hilda Doolittle, pen-name H.D., American poet, actor in "Borderline." Other personalities, of course, frequently appear in the publication, but it is these three whom I'm quite fond of, especially the two women. Quite naturally, I had to see these personalities materialize on film, their only film.

It's amazing how well this film corresponds to these personalities I've loved. The rhythm, the technique, the good-humor of "Borderline" is so apparently theirs. Of course, I say this from bias, but I still say it is uniquely the product of MacPherson, of his person and people. And the jazz score on the Criterion disc compliments this personality well, I feel. It compliments the film. It compliments the rhythm, the technique, and the good-humor. Oh, I should probably define these. Hmm... The rhythm is difficult to describe. The cutting is strange and... jazz-like (undoubtedly, the jazz score again biases me). The story is more rhythmic than coherent, and apparently this throws people off (as evidenced by the few uninformed narrative junkies who have submitted embarrassingly bad reviews to this humble IMDb page). The technique is often impressionistic. "Borderline" is beautifully photographed, if I may say so, and the Criterion quality is the standard of excellence. The thoughtful angles, the focus and lighting, the good-humor... all shines through on the DVD. Oh, the good-humor! Well, that's something you have to experience.

I'm thankful MacPherson made a film. He should have made more. Well, anyone who's interested has some writings they can turn to. In fact, more than "Borderline" I'd like to recommend "Close Up" to the intelligent film-scholar. You'd be surprised how finely clear these writers' thoughts are and you'll get a very good look at the industry of the time (and the people who drove it). Worthwhile.

P.S. Robeson is really good, too.

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Release Date:

13 October 1930 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Borderline See more »

Filming Locations:

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Company Credits

Production Co:

Pool Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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