Tulsa (working title)

Octavia Spencer

Status:  Development Status Unknown
Release Date:  TBA
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  Not Available
Studio:  OWN
Director: TBA
Cast: Octavia Spencer (Mattie Clay)

Details:  According to Hitfix, OWN is developing Tulsa, a two-night miniseries set to star Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (The Help). The miniseries will tell the story of the largest race riot in U.S. history, during which 300 people are believed to have been murdered in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, a story OWN says was covered up for decades.

Spencer will be playing the role of Mattie Clay, a journalist who moves back to Tulsa after a stint in Chicago where she must “face the demons of her past and decide where her future lies.”  The miniseries will be executive produced by Nancy Miller (Saving Grace), and co-executive producers are Valerie Woods (Soul Food) and Dayna North (Single Ladies). Source: hitfix.com.  Photo credit:  The Grio.

My Name is Love: The Darlene Love Story

Darlene LoveStatus:  Announced
Release Date: TBA
Genre:  Drama/ Biography
Rating:  Not Available
Studio:  OWN
Director: TBA
Cast: Toni Braxton (Darlene Love)

Details:  On 4/3/14 Black America Web reported that The Oprah Winfrey Network announced today that Toni Braxton is set to star as Darlene Love in the network’s first scripted TV film My Name is Love: The Darlene Love Story.  Executive produced by Oprah Winfrey and Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet From Stardom), the film features the story of one of the 1960’s iconic musical voices, Darlene Love. Love began cutting records for producer Phil Spector right out of high school, and went on to work with some of the greatest musical talents in history, including Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen.

Whether it was the wild parties Tom Jones used to throw, how Elvis came on to her backstage at his 1968 comeback special, or her love affair with Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers, Love holds nothing back as she recalls the exciting events that make up her life. This is the dishy and dramatic story of a woman who had it all, lost it all, but never, ever refused to give up. Love will also serve as an executive producer.  Source(s):  Black America Web.  Photo credit:  Biography.com.

From the Rough

From The RoughRelease Date:  4/25/14 (limited); 6/8/2013 (Ardmore open)
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  PG
Running Time:  97 mins.
Studio(s):  Royal Street Productions; Gyre Entertainment; Freestyle Releasing
Director:  Pierre Bagley
Cast:  Taraji P. Henson (Catana Starks)
Michael Clarke Duncan (Roger)
Tom Felton (Edward)
Justin Chon (Ji-Kyung)
Henry Simmons (Kendrick Paulsen, Jr.)
James Saito (Won-Sik)
Robert Bailey, Jr.(Craig)
Tony Bentley (Coach Hank Taylor)
Letoya Luckett (Stacey)

Story:  The inspirational true story of Catana Starks from the Historically Black University Tennessee State, who became the first African-American woman ever to coach an all-men’s team at the collegiate level. Through grit and determination, she overcame incredible odds and deep-seated prejudice from all corners to guide a rag-tag group of golfers to an all-time record championship season. Source(s): IMDB; Fromtherough.com, official site.


Drumline: A New Beat

DrumlineRelease Date:  10/27/14
Genre:  Comedy/Drama
Rating:  Not Available
Studio(s):  Fox Television Studios /VH1 Television
Director:  Billie Woodruff
Cast:  Nick Cannon (Devon Miles), Alexandra Shipp (Dani), Jordan Calloway (Jayven), Leonard Roberts (Sean Taylor), Lisa Arrindell Anderson (Lois Bolton), Letoya Luckett (Dr. Nia Phillips), Jasmine Burke (Tasha), Kamille Leai (Lori) Jackie Goldston (Dean Scott), Rome Flynn (Leon), Scott Shilstone (Josh), Jeff Pierre (Tyree)

Story:  Drumline: A New Beat will focus on a new set of characters at Atlanta A&T University — the setting of the original movie. The story follows Dani Bolton (Shipp), an upper-class Brooklyn girl who defies her parents in order to attend Atlanta A&T so she can join — and revitalize — its once-prominent drumline.

Dani’s quest to become the first female section leader of the drumline in the school’s history will be hampered by upperclassmen, including her cousin, Tyree (Jeff Pierre, Glee), head of the percussion section and her feelings for fellow bandmate Jayven (Jordan Calloway, Unfabulous), an extremely gifted, yet cocky freshman.

Leonard Roberts will reprise his role as Sean Taylor, now a determined band director looking to make his mark at his alma mater while navigating the ghosts of his past. Cannon will executive produce and reprise his role as Devon Miles in a cameo. Letoya Luckett (Single Ladies) will portray Dr. Nia Phillips, the intelligent and determined dean at Atlanta A&T with former romantic ties to Sean. Her support of Sean’s return to lead A&T’s band proves to be difficult as the Panthers take on a rival band led by Phillips’ ex-husband — and Sean’s brother — Kevin Taylor. Jasmine Burke (Ride Along) is set as Tasha Williams, one of Dani’s roommates who is wooed by Josh (Scott Shilstone, Now You See Me).  Source: The Hollywood Reporter.



Details:  The first Drumline featured a talented street drummer from Harlem who enrolls in a Southern university, was a success for Fox, grossing close to $60 million. The sequel may be a possible pilot to a potential Drumline series on VH-1. Source(s): Deadline; Shadow & Act.

Black Nativity

Black NativityRelease Date:  4/15/14, DVD; 11/27/13, Theatrical Release
Genre:  Drama/Musical
Rating:  PG
Studio:  Maven Pictures; Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director:  Kasi Lemmons
Cast:  Angela Bassett (Aretha Cobbs)
Jennifer Hudson (Naima)
Forest Whitaker (Reverend Clarence Cobbs)
Mary J. Blige (Angel)
Jacob Latimore (Langston)
Nasir Jones (Street Prophet /Isaiah)
Tyrese Gibson (Loot /Tyson)
Vondie Curtis Hall (Pawnbroker)

Story:  In a contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes’ celebrated play, the holiday musical drama follows Langston, a street-wise teen from Baltimore raised by a single mother, as he journeys to New York City to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged relatives Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs. Unwilling to live by the imposing Reverend Cobbs’ rules, a frustrated Langston is determined to return home to his mother, Naima. Langston embarks on a surprising and inspirational journey and along with new friends, and a little divine intervention, he discovers the true meaning of faith, healing, and family. Source: Foxsearchlight.com, official site.


Herb Jeffries

a/k/a Herbert Jeffery
a/k/a The Bronze Buckaroo

Herb Jeffries 1

Update:  On May 26, 2014, Variety reported that a pioneer in African American-targeted Western movies and jazz singer Herb Jeffries, a/k/a the “Bronze Buckaroo,” died. He was 100.  Jeffries died of heart failure in West Hills, California on Sunday, May 25, 2014, according to the LA Times.  His health had been declining for some time.  His survivors include his wife Savannah and his five children.

Herb Jeffries (billed as Herbert Jeffrey) was born Umberto Alejandro Ballentino in Detroit, Michigan in 1913 (some modern sources cite the year as 1911) to an Irish mother and mixed-race father. He grew up watching silent screen cowboys at local movie theatres and learning to ride on his grandfather’s dairy farm in Northern Michigan. Herb fell in love with music at a young age, and sang in a church choir, but he was especially attracted to jazz and blues. He attended school during the Depression and since money was scarce, decided to quit high school and go to work. Years later, he would go back, graduate, and even get several degrees, but at that time, the goal was to earn enough money to help his family. Blessed with an excellent singing voice, he began performing locally in Detroit.

Herb Jeffries 2One night in 1933, Jeffries was singing in a small nightclub when jazz icon Louis Armstrong walked through the door. In an interview by amateur jazz historian Tad Calcara, Jeffries says Armstrong heard him sing, pulled him aside, and changed his life. Jeffries took the Armstrong’s advice and headed for Chicago where he joined a band led by Erskine Tate and was soon spotted by Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines. Hines featured Jeffries in concerts and recordings, and on a national radio broadcast from the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 that brought him national attention.

While in his twenties, Jeffries pitched the idea for an all-black Western to producer Jed Buell, leading to one of the most enduring genres of the race movie movement. Jeffries traveled to Buell’s offices in Gower Gulch, California, and convinced him to take a chance on Harlem on the Prairie (1937), the first sound Western with an all-black cast. Harlem on the Prairie was a rarity in that it also secured bookings in white theatres on both East and West Coasts, thanks largely to Gene Autry, who helped Jeffries and Buell get a distribution deal with Sack Amusement.

With the film’s success, producer Richard C. Kahn approached Jeffries about making follow-up films. With Two-Gun Man from Harlem (1938), Jeffries introduced the character of Bob Blake, whom he would play in two other films, The Bronze Buckaroo (1939) and Harlem Rides the Range (1939). With his long frame, rakish mustache and exotic good looks, Jeffries was able to capitalize on two unique styles of films at the time race films and singing cowboy pictures. And although he only made four films in that era, he helped to change the way African-Americans were portrayed in the movies.Herb Jeffries 4

Because of his mixed racial heritage, Jeffries had to use make-up to darken his complexion. He rarely took off his white Stetson, which he wore with an otherwise all-black outfit, so as not to reveal his lighter brown hair. The success of Jeffries’ Westerns did not escape Hollywood’s notice, but he turned down offers to join the major studios, not wanting to play stereotyped domestic roles.

Other films were in the planning stages, but never made because any chances to continue the series ended when Jeffries decided to accept a prestigious singing engagement with Duke Ellington. This led to his greatest recording success. In 1941, when another singer was unavailable, Jeffries stepped into the studio at the last minute to record “Flamingo,” which would become his signature song.

In the ’50s, Jeffries headlined in Europe and ran his own nightclub in Paris. He also starred in one more film, Calypso Joe (1957). He made several television guest appearances, including playing a black cowboy on The Virginian and had multiple guest roles on “Hawaii Five-O” as well as a run on the animated sitcom “Where’s Huddles?”  Jeffries also wrote and directed the nudie classic Mundo Depravados (1967), starring his wife at the time, stripper Tempest Storm.

Herb Jeffries 3Through the years Herb remained active on the lecture circuit and performed benefits for autism and music education. In 1995, he recorded an album of Western songs entitled “The Bronze Buckaroo Rides Again,” which was well received by critics.  In 1999, at 88, he released The Duke and I, a CD of songs he performed with Ellington in tribute to Ellington’s 100th birthday. Jeffries was a recipient of a Golden Boot award in 1996 and was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2003.


Herb Jeffries Filmography
Calypso Joe (1957)
Harlem Rides the Range (1939)
The Bronze Buckaroo (1939)
Rhythm Rodeo (1938)
Two-Gun Man from Harlem (1938)
Harlem on the Prairie (1937)

Source(s): Turner Classic Movies, B-Westerns.com, Voice of America, classicimages.com, IMDB, Variety.




Year of Release: 1938
Genre: Western
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 66 mins.
Black & White
Studio: Merit Pictures
Producer: Richard C. Kahn & Alfred N. Sack
Director: Richard C. Kahn

Herbert Jeffrey a/k/a Herb Jeffries (Bob Blake/The Deacon)
Margaret Whitten (Sally Thompson)
Clarence Brooks (John Barker)
Mantan Moreland (Bill)
Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard (Jimmy Thompson)
Spencer Williams, Jr. (Butch Carter)
Mae Turner (Ruth Steel)
Jesse Lee Brooks (The Sheriff)
Rosalie Lincoln (Dolores)
Tom Southern (John Steel)
The Cats and the Fiddle The Four Tones


After hanging out with friends and later spending time with pretty Sally Thompson and her talkative young brother Jimmy, Bob Blake returns to John Steel’s Wyoming ranch, where he works as a cowboy.

Bob Blake

At the ranch, Bob discovers that Steel has been murdered by a man with whom his wife Ruth was having an affair, and whom she refuses to name.  As Bob inspects the body, Ruth substitutes her lover’s gun with Bob’s, and Bob subsequently is accused of the crime by the sheriff.  During the sheriff’s interrogation, Bob’s friend Bill, the ranch cook, turns off the lights, Bob hides, and the sheriff, believing that Bob has escaped, rides off with his men.

Once alone with Bob, Ruth confesses to framing him and insists that he leave the area to avoid arrest.

Ruth tells Bob to leave townBob hitchhikes across the country and eventually arrives in Harlem, where he meets a man known as The Deacon, a killer who was once a preacher and who Bob greatly resembles.

Bob meets the DeaconBob gets the idea to assume a new identity and return to Wyoming disguised as a church elder in order to clear his name.  Bob, now known as The Deacon, allies himself with Butch Carter.  Carter, a miner who has been paid by the well-to-do John Barker, to kidnap and murder Ruth as she knows that Barker killed her husband.

Carter rides to Sally’s ranch, where he forces himself on her.  Bob, who has been told by Jimmy that Sally is being pressured into marrying Barker to avoid foreclosure on their father’s ranch, saves Sally from Carter’s advances.Bob makes Butch pay Sally

Bob cleverly cons Carter into paying Sally two thousand dollars, which she happily gives to Barker to pay off her father’s loan.Sally pays BarkerSoon after, Bob fights with Barker and confers with an angry Ruth, who has been locked in a shed by Carter.  While Jimmy rushes to find the sheriff at Bob’s request, Barker and Carter plot to get rid of The Deacon.  They converge on the old mine where Bob has taken Sally for protection.  While Bob fights with Barker, Bill uses his trusty frying pan to save his friend from Barker’s hired gunman.

Bill saves Bob 2Just as the sheriff arrives, Bob overwhelms Barker and takes the lawman to Ruth, who finally exposes Barker as her husband’s killer.  Bob’s true identity is revealed and he leaves with a smitten Sally.

Sally learns that The Deacon is Bob

Source(s):  Turner Classic Movies; YouTube.