One of the possibly lesser known aspects of early to mid-20th century racism is "race" movies - movies made by African Americans largely for African-American audiences. I can't imagine what it would have been like when this was released in 1940 - about a month after Hattie McDaniel won her Oscar for "Gone With the Wind". For many people, this might have been their first, if not only, view of city life.
Although there probably wasn't much of a budget, this actually seems to make the most of what they to work with. It's a pretty good gangster movie. It's a chance to see life in Harlem just prior to WWII, and quite probably, one of the few chances to see these entertainers on film.
This is the story of an ambitious gangster who fights his way towards the top of the Harlem underworld who takes over, what appears to have been a lucrative business in jukeboxes. This isn't as violent as some of the Warner Brothers pre-code gangster movies (i.e., "The Public Enemy" or "Scarface"), but is fairly fast-paced and well worth watching. I'm glad TCM showed this rare gem.
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