4.9/10
149
6 user 5 critic

Moon Over Harlem (1939)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Romance | 31 October 1939 (USA)
Musical numbers highlight this story of a wealthy widow who disowns her daughter after a new man enters her life.

Director:

Edgar G. Ulmer

Writers:

Mathew Mathews (story), Shirley Ulmer (screenplay) (as Sherle Castle) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Buddy Harris Buddy Harris ... Dollar Bill (as Bud Harris)
Cora Green Cora Green ... Minnie
Izinetta Wilcox Izinetta Wilcox ... Sue
Earl Gough Earl Gough ... Bob
Zerita Steptean Zerita Steptean ... Jackie (as Zerita Stepteau)
Daphne Fray Daphne Fray ... Pat
Mercedes Gilbert Mercedes Gilbert ... Jackie's mother
Frances Harrod Frances Harrod ... Maud
Alec Lovejoy Alec Lovejoy ... Fats
Walter Richardson Walter Richardson ... Brother Hornsby
Slim Thompson Slim Thompson ... Long-Boy
Freddie Robinson Freddie Robinson ... Half-Pint
John Bunn John Bunn ... Wallstreet
Marieluise Bechet Marieluise Bechet ... Nina Mae Brown
Archie Cross Archie Cross ... A Boy from Newark
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Storyline

Musical numbers highlight this story of a wealthy widow who disowns her daughter after a new man enters her life.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Powerful drama... Ripped from the heart of harlem!

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 October 1939 (USA) See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$8,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Variray Blue Seal Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was shot in four days; two days at the New Jersey studio and two days in New York City. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Edgar G. Ulmer - The Man Off-screen (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

My Hope Chest of Dreams
(1939)
Music and Lyrics by Donald Heywood
Played on a radio and sung by an unidentified man and woman
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Unique Portrayal of Harlem in 1939
14 July 2010 | by jayraskin1See all my reviews

This movie begins with a wedding and ends with a funeral, so one would expect it to be a tragedy. In fact, it is uplifting and exciting. This is actually an extraordinary portrayal of Harlem around the 1930's. It is the richest and most interesting portrayal of life recorded in that period. After watching hundreds of films where Afro-Americans are limited to cameo roles as smiling, dancing servants, it is exciting to see them portraying three dimensional people. Only King Vidor's "Cabin in the Sky" matches it for intensity and realism.

This film was shot in four days on an $8,000 budget by the cinema genius director, "King of the B's" Edgar Ulmer. It unfortunately has technical problems in the first reel, on the Platinum DVD, I watched. It was difficult to understand the dialog over the noisy soundtrack for about five minutes. However, the soundtrack improves quite significantly and the problem soon disappears.

The plot of the film is a political reformer (read "communist" in the subtext) fighting against a hoodlum who has been running an insurance=protection racket. This could have been totally stereotyped in lesser hands, but Ulmer and his screenwriter wife, Shirley, has been able to make both characters believable and interesting. The reformer really does love Harlem and really does want to unite black people. Even the gangster responds to this idea of unity, refusing to go along with the white gangsters who actually control crime in Harlem.

A couple of other amazing things about this film: it contains perhaps the first inter-racial romance and almost kiss (there is a cut just before the lips touch) and their is an incestuous sub-plot about a step-father lusting after his step-daughter.

This is a unique film and anybody who wants to see what the Golden age of Hollywood might have been like if it wasn't so racist should see it.


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