Year of Release: 1927
Runtime: 68 mins.
Black & White
Studio: Colored Players Film Corporation
Producer: David Starkman
Director: Frank Perugini
Harry Henderson (Alvin Hillyard)
Norman Johnstone (Eddie Blake)
Ann Kennedy (Lucretia Green)
Lucia Lynn Moses (Louise Howard)
William E. Pettus (Spike Howard)
Lawrence Chenault (Ralph Hathaway)
Pearl McCormick (Alice Hathaway)
FOREWARD: Environment, surroundings, childhood training and companions often is the deciding factor in our lives It shapes our destinies and guides our ambitions. If early in life some knowing, loving hand lights the lamp of knowledge and with tender care keeps it burning, then our course will run true ’til the end of our useful time on this earth, but if that lamp should fail through lack of loving hands to tend its hungry flame then will come sorrow and SHAME!
One afternoon at Mrs. Lucretia Green’s boardinghouse, Alvin Hillyard, a struggling young composer, witnesses a drunken man abusing a young woman in the tenement yard next door. He saves the girl, Louise Howard, then carries her to the boardinghouse, where Mrs. Green comforts her. Mrs. Green offers Louise a room in exchange for helping around the house, hoping to keep her safe from her violent, drunkard stepfather Spike. Meanwhile, Eddie Blake, a saloon owner and another one of Mrs. Green’s boarders, encourages Spike to drink and then tries to drag Louise back to her father as he wants to hire the girl, to whom he is attracted, as an entertainer in his seedy club. Alvin once again intervenes, and Mrs. Green tells Eddie to pack his bags while Alvin vows to teach the lout how to have respect for “our” women.
Later, at a saloon, Spike and Eddie discuss Louise, and Spike tells Eddie to leave the girl alone, blaming his own violence on the alcohol that Eddie has given him. Eddie proceeds to push alcohol on the susceptible Spike, and after he has become thoroughly inebriated, he goes to Louise’s room and tries to grab her. Alvin rescues Louise once again and then decides that he will marry her so that she will finally be safe. Three months later, Spike, in a state of alcohol withdrawal, begs Eddie for a drink, and Eddie says he will serve him only if he helps kidnap Louise and set up a cabaret in another town, where with her looks and his brains they will make a killing. The pair send a fake telegram calling Alvin away to his sick mother’s bedside. As Alvin packs to leave, Louise offers to accompany him, but Alvin confesses that he has never told his class-conscious mother about their marriage.
Alvin leaves as Spike watches the house, and Louise, distraught, ruins a photo of Alvin’s mother and then discovers and tears up letters in which the matron mentions her hopes that Alvin will marry a young woman of their own class. Her final acts of defiance are to remove her wedding ring and tear up her marriage license. Eddie enters Louise’s room and asks her to join him in a business deal in another town. Louise agrees, provided their relationship remains strictly business. Alvin discovers the trick played upon him once he arrives at his mother’s home. He returns to the boardinghouse but having lost his house key, breaks into his and Louise’s room through a window.
Alvin is convicted of assault based on Louise’s testimony, and the girl is left with a disfiguring scar on her neck. Two years later, Alvin escapes from prison and becomes a successful music teacher under the name “Arthur Jones” in the same city where Louise and Eddie have set up the chic gambling club, Club Lido.
Alvin begins to fall in love with his star music pupil, Alice Hathaway, but does not declare his feelings because of his past. One day, her father, Ralph Hathaway, a wealthy lawyer, receives a call from Louise inviting him to come to a “whoopie” party at the club, of which Hathaway is the sponsor and protector. When a letter is left for Hathaway, Alice, now engaged to Alvin, asks her fiancé to bring it down to the club. Alvin is shocked when he is introduced to Louise. Louise blackmails Alvin into dancing with her in front of Hathaway, and then later into coming to visit her at her home. When he arrives, she tries to seduce him, then confesses that she has always loved him. Alvin rejects her and leaves. Distraught and hopeless, Louise writes a letter to Hathaway, which she asks her maid to deliver. Then she begs God’s forgiveness and drinks poison.
The maid calls Hathaway to come to Louise’s side as she is dying. In the meantime, Alvin, having confessed all to Alice, tries to comfort her. Hathaway arrives with Louise’s letter and Alvin finally learns the truth, that it was Eddie who had actually shot Louise that night.
Alice and her future husband, now exonerated, embrace.
Scar of Shame was a statement on the class and color caste system that existed within the African-American community.
Sources: Turner Classic Movies; A Separate Cinema: Fifty Years of Black Cast Posters.