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In the rural south of the United States, a godly young woman is accidently wounded by her unchurched husband. She succumbs to the injuries, whereupon a good angel bids her to journey with him to the Crossroads of Life. Before she can travel far, the devil lures her with the temptations of juke joints and the city. Can she regain the straight and narrow before it's too late? And what is to become of those she left behind?Written by
Thomas McWilliams <email@example.com>
"The Blood of Jesus" is a 1941 "race film" produced, directed, and starring black people and designed to be shown in theatres that served black people during a time when segregation still ruled in many parts of the US. It was written and directed by Spencer Williams (1893-1969) who also is featured as the husband of a woman (Cathryn Caviness) undergoing a spiritual challenge.
Williams is best known for playing Andy in the wonderful "Amos and Andy" TV series (1951-3), but his work as a major star and director of race films has been largely forgotten. Williams appeared in dozens of films from 1928 through 1947 and directed 12 films, including this one.
The film was made with a $5000 budget, provided by Williams. The actors are non-professionals, many of them taken from a local church group, the Reverend Robinson's Heavenly Choir. The story is taken from Southern Baptist folk lore and centers on the struggle for the soul of Cathryn Caviness, who lies dying after being accidentally shot by Williams. Caviness' soul is tempted by an over-the-top Satan (Jas. B. Jones) while a sweet angel (Rogenia Goldthwaite) tries to keep her on the moral road.
There are a few special effects, but generally the acting and photography are what you'd expect with a $5,000 budget. What makes the film valuable is the anthropological value of watching life for Southern Blacks – their music, their dance joints, their belief systems, their language, etc. We even get to observe a baptism. In 1991 the film was selected as part of the Library of Congress National Film Registry.
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