THE BRONZE BUCKAROO

Bronze Buckaroo

Tagline
Roaring Round-Up of Song-Studded Thrills!

Details
Year of Release:  1939
Genre:  Western/Musical
Rating:  N/A
Runtime:  58 mins.
Black & White
Studio(s):  Sack Amusement Enterprises, Inc., Hollywood Productions
Director:   Richard C. Kahn

Cast
Herbert Jeffrey (Bob Blake), Lucius Brooks (Dusty), Artie Young (Betty Jackson), F. E. Miller (Jim Pecklat), Spencer Williams, Jr. (Pete), Clarence Brooks (Gus).

Synopsis

Bronze Buckaroo still #1Five cowboys led by Bob Blake ride from Texas to help their friend, Joe Jackson, who has moved to Arizona for his health.  Jackson’s ranch hand, Slim, is learning to use ventriloquism to make the farm animals talk, and tries to convince the gullible Dusty to buy a talking mule. Bob learns from Joe’s sister Betty that Joe disappeared three weeks before.  He also learns that Joe and Betty’s father had vanished in a similar manner and later turned up dead.

The cowboys drift into town to learn what they can. Dusty and a companion enter a saloon, where brutish cowhand Pete shoots his partner in a card game and then forces Dusty to smoke four cigars at once.  Bob enters, interrupting the bully and the two get into a fistfight.

Bronze Buckaroo still #3Later, Bob visits Buck Thorn, a neighbor of the Jacksons’ who has offered to buy their ranch, and who employs Pete and some other tough cowhands.

Upstairs in the saloon, Buck, Pete and their henchmen try to force Joe to sign his land over to them because it contains a gold mine worth one million dollars. Bob finds them but is knocked over the head by the bartender.  A shootout ensues downstairs when Bob’s friends come to his rescue.

Returning to the ranch, they discover that Betty is gone. She left to follow Pete, who gave her a message that Joe is hurt. Buck brands Joe with a hot iron, and threatens Betty with the same treatment.  Meanwhile, Betty’s horse returns to the ranch and Bob and his friends follow the animal’s tracks.

Bronze Buckaroo still #6During a gunfight among the rocks, the sheriff and his men are led to the scene by Dusty who shoots Pete.  The villains are hauled off to jail, and Blake rides into the sunset with Betty.Bronze Buckaroo still #7

Notes

The picture was filmed at N. B. Murray’s dude ranch near Victorville, CA. The ranch catered to African-American guests.

Source(s):

TCM; Blaxploitation Pride.  Poster Source:  Wikipedia

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BY RIGHT OF BIRTH

By Right of BirthDetails
Year of Release:  1921
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  N/A
Black & White
Silent
Studio:  Lincoln Motion Picture Co.
Director:  Harry Gant

Cast
Clarence Brooks (Philip Jones), Anita Thompson (Juanita Cooper/Helen Childers), Webb King (Pinky Webb), Beatrice George (Mary Childers, a/k/a Mother Agnes), Lester Bates (Frank Cooper), Lew Meehan (Manuel Romero), Minnie Provost (Minnie Childers), Grace Ellenwood (Geraldine Cooper).

Synopsis

Frank Cooper, a wealthy retired rancher, and his wife Geraldine adopt Juanita Cooper, believing she is of Native American ancestry.  Juanita becomes friends with African-American law student, Philip Jones.  Meanwhile, Geraldine backs a scheme by stockbroker, Manuel Romero, to acquire valuable Oklahoma oil leases belonging to Freedmen, former black slaves of Indian owners, and their descendants.  Many of these Freedmen are unaware that the land allotted to them by the government contains oil. Romero learns about land belonging to Helen Childers, the missing granddaughter of an aged Native American woman, Minnie Childers.  Minnie’s son married a Freedwoman, and Minnie has not heard from the family since they left Oklahoma for California long ago.

Geraldine goes to California and does some snooping with Romero’s chauffeur, Pinky Webb, a correspondence school detective.  They learn that Juanita is actually Helen Childers and that after her birth her father was killed in an accident.  Frank rescued baby Helen but never found the baby’s mother.  Upon learning of her heritage, Juanita a/k/a Helen, leaves home and goes to California.  Mother Agnes, a matron who devotes her life to helping homeless black girls, befriends Juanita.  Philip, now an up-and-coming attorney, meets Juanita again and actively pursues a friendship with her, as race is no longer a factor in their relationship.  Romero locates Juanita and tricks her into signing a lease for her land.

Meanwhile Minnie arrives in California to look for her son and hires Philip as a legal adviser.  When Philip learns of Romero’s scheme, they get into a fight and Romero is killed in an automobile chase.  Philip then discovers that Mother Agnes is actually Juanita’s birth mother.  The family has a happy reunion, where Juanita introduces Mother Agnes to Frank, and Juanita, “by right of birth,” acquires her fortune.

Notes
The Daily Herald praised the company for making the film “free from racial propaganda such as has been characteristic in several similar productions attempted by other concerns.”  The Examiner stated, “Every detail of the plot supports the theme partly expressed in the title — the right of the transplanted race to a little pride of its own.”

Source(s)
TCM; Poster Source:  Duke University Library

THE BLOOD OF JESUS

a/k/a The Glory Road

The Blood of Jesus

Tagline
A Mighty Epic of Modern Morals!

Details
Year of Release:  1941
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  N/A
Runtime:  57 mins/68 mins
Black & White
Studio:  Amegro Films, Sack Amusement Enterprises
Director:  Spencer Williams

Cast

Cathryn Caviness (Sister Martha Ann Jackson), Spencer Williams (Ras Jackson), Juanita Riley (Sister Jenkins), Reather Hardeman (Sister Ellerby), Rogenia Goldthwaite (The Angel), Jas. B. Jones (Satan), Frank H. McClennan (Judas Green), Eddie DeBase (Rufus Brown), Alva Fuller (Luke Willows).

Synopsis

The Blood of Jesus still #2At the riverside baptism of Sister Martha Ann Jackson, two members of a Southern church congregation, Sister Ellerby and Sister Jenkins, discuss Martha’s three-month-old marriage to the godless Ras Jackson.  After the baptism, Sister Jenkins escorts Martha home and advises her to get some rest. As she is leaving, Sister Jenkins encounters Ras, who missed the baptism and is returning home from a hunting trip.

Later Ras begrudgingly joins his wife in prayer and then sets down his rifle, which falls to the ground firing a bullet. The bullet passes through Martha and hits a picture of Jesus Christ.  The Blood of Jesus still #5On her deathbed, Martha is visited by a heavenly angel, who takes her spirit to a mystical graveyard where those whose lives have been cut short by the sins of others walk in silence. The angel tells Martha that this is not the place for her yet, and sends her down the highway of life to the crossroads of life and death.

No sooner does the angel warn Martha to beware of hypocrites and false prophets, than she is tempted by Judas Green, Satan’s emissary, who dresses her in fancy clothes and takes her to a nightclub in the city. While Martha is entertained by an acrobat and a jazz singer, Judas makes arrangements with sleazy roadhouse operator Rufus Brown to hire her as one of his “girls.” Martha is tempted with the promise of abundant wealth for little work, but changes her mind just before she is to begin her job.The Blood of Jesus still #6 Claiming that he invested money in her, Brown insists she go to work immediately.

Martha eventually takes the advice of the angel and flees the roadhouse, only to be chased by a customer who mistakes her for the escort who picked his pocket. The man and his friends chase Martha to the crossroads of eternal life and death, where Satan and a jazz band are waiting for her.  Martha collapses at the crossroads but is saved by the angel, who sends away the men who have been chasing her. The Blood of Jesus still #7 As the crossroads sign is transformed into a crucifix and drops of Jesus Christ’s blood land on Martha’s forehead, she is revived and returned to life.  Ras is amazed at Martha’s miraculous recovery, and they embrace under the watchful eye of the angel.

Notes

The Blood of Jesus, shot on location in Texas on a budget of only $5,000, marked Spencer Williams’ directorial debut. The financial backer claimed it was “possibly the most successful” and “lived the longest” of all the movies of its period created by black filmmakers for black audiences.

In his book Black Film as Genre, Thomas Cripps wrote that the film “provided a brief anatomy of Southern Baptist folk theology by presenting Christian myth in literal terms. From its opening voiceover, the film became an advocate for the most enduring traditions of Afro-American family life on Southern ground.”

In 2013 The Blood of Jesus became the first race film to be added to the U.S. National Film Registry.

Source(s)
TCM; Blaxploitation Pride.

BIRTHRIGHT

Birthright (1939)

Tagline
A Story Of The Negro And The South

Details
Year of Release:   1938
Genre:   Drama
Rating:  N/A
Black & White
Studio:  Micheaux Pictures Corporation
Director:  Oscar Micheaux

Cast

Carman Newsome, Laura Bowman, S. O. Moses, Alec Lovejoy, Trixie Smith, Hazel Lisz, W. Herbert Jelly, Ida Forsyne, John Ward, C. R. Chace, Alice B. Russell, H. E. Knight, George Vessey, Columbus Jackson, Harry Moses, Tom Dillon, Allen Lee, Robert Alderdice.

Synopsis

Harvard University graduate Peter Siner is trying to raise money to start a school for blacks. On his way to Hookers Bend, his hometown in the South, Peter encounters his friend Tump Pack, a decorated war hero and a gambler.  Soon Peter attracts the attention of every eligible girl in town, including Cissie Dildane. Although Cissie pledges a contribution to fund Peter’s school, she tells him that she disagrees with his approach to bettering the condition of blacks through industrial training, and instead favors literacy education.

Peter purchases an old building from the unscrupulous white banker Henry Hooker, but eventually learns that Hooker has been scheming against him and trying to thwart his efforts to establish a black school in the area. When Peter takes a closer look at the contract he signed, he realizes that it contains a “stopper clause” preventing blacks from having anything to do with the property. He complains to Hooker, who offers to buy back the deed at a fraction of the original purchase price.

Following the death of his mother, Peter goes to work for the town’s richest man, Captain Renfrew.  Renfrew’s maid resents having to serve Peter as if he were a white man and lies to Renfrew, by telling him that Peter plans to marry Cissie, who, she claims, is a suspected thief. The sheriff arrests Cissie, however, she escapes and goes to a nightclub, where her sister, Ida May is performing.  When Peter arrives at the nightclub, he gets a telegram stating that Renfrew has died and left everything to him, including 90% ownership in the bank where Hooker works. He also reads that charges against Cissie have been dropped.

Peter develops plans to turn Renfrew’s mansion into an industrial training school.   After successfully establishing his school, he marries Cissie, and the couple drive to Chicago for their honeymoon.

Notes

From the novel by T. S. Stribling.

Oscar Micheaux made an earlier film based on the same source in 1924.

The first two of the film’s nine reels have been missing for years. To replace about 20 minutes of the missing scenes, restorers have added new title cards to introduce the story of Peter Siner.

Source(s): 

TCM; Poster Source:  NPR.org.

BODY AND SOUL

Body and Soul still #1Details
Year of Release:  1925
Genre:   Drama
Rating:  N/A
Runtime:  102 mins.
Black & White
Silent
Studio:  Micheaux Pictures Corporation
Director:  Oscar Micheaux

Cast

Paul Robeson (Reverend Isaiah Jenkins/his brother Sylvester)
Julia Theresa Russell (Isabelle)
Mercedes Gilbert (Sister Martha Jane)
Lawrence Chenault (Yellow-Curley Hinds)
Chester A. Alexander (Deacon Simpkins)
Walter Conick (Brother Amos)
Lillian Johnson (Sis Ca’line)
Madame Robinson (Sis Lucy)

Synopsis

Body and Soul still #2In Tatesville, Georgia, a prisoner being transported North for extradition to Britain, escapes and takes on the disguise of Reverend Isaiah Jenkins. With his fiery sermons, Pastor Jenkins gains many followers in the small town, including, Sister Martha Jane, the hard-working mother of a young daughter named Isabelle. Jenkins falls in love with Isabelle, even though she is in love with a poor young man named Sylvester, who happens to be Jenkins’ estranged twin brother.

Jenkins is joined in Tatesville by Yellow-Curley Hinds, another criminal whom he knew in jail, and together they plan to swindle Jenkins’ congregation by selling liquor at inflated prices and taking the parish’s contributions. Martha Jane has been saving her hard-earned money, which she hides in a Bible, so that Isabelle and Pastor Jenkins can marry and buy a house. When Isabelle learns of her mother’s plans, she is horrified and calls Jenkins a drunk and a sinner.  Body and Soul still #14Angry at her daughter, Martha Jane leaves Isabelle alone in the house with Jenkins, so that he can save her soul. Jenkins steals Martha Jane’s money, convinces Isabelle to take the blame and flee to Atlanta, as her mother would never believe that her dear pastor was the culprit.

After Martha Jane finds her daughter’s written confession, she forgives her and goes to Atlanta where she finds Isabelle ill and living in poverty.  Before dying, Isabelle tells her mother that Jenkins took advantage of her and that he is the one who took the money.  Martha Jane cradles her daughter in her arms, and shortly thereafter, Isabelle dies.

Body and Soul still #11Returning to Tatesville, Martha Jane goes to the church where a drunken Jenkins is giving his “Dry Bones in the Valley” sermon to the congregation.  Martha Jane publicly accuses Jenkins of being her daughter’s murderer, and the congregation turns on him. That night, Jenkins, hunted by bloodhounds, arrives at Martha Jane’s house and tells her that her pampering ruined him.  When two church ladies arrive, Martha Jane hides Jenkins in the kitchen and sends the women away. Forgiven by his accuser, but unrepentant, Jenkins takes refuge in the woods. When he encounters one of his pursuers, Jenkins brutally kills the man.

Body and Soul still #13The next morning, Martha Jane awakens to realize that the events she thought transpired the night before were actually a dream. Although earlier Martha Jane had refused Sylvester’s proposal for her daughter on the grounds that he was too poor, she now offers to give the couple the money in the Bible so that they can marry right away.

Notes

Best-known silent film of pioneer filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, offered the great singer/actor/athlete, Paul Robeson, his first opportunity in films.   Although it was a theme that proved controversial with his audiences, Micheaux turned several times to the subject of corruption and dishonesty among the clergy.

As part of the agreement to star in the film, Robeson received a $100 per week salary plus three percent of the gross after the first $40,000 in receipts.

Source(s)
TCM; Blaxploitation Pride

EXILE, THE

The ExileDetails
Year of Release:   1931
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  N/A
Runtime:  93 min.
Black & White
Studio:  Micheaux Film Corp.
Director(s):  Leonard Harper & Oscar Micheaux

Cast
Eunice Brooks (Edith Duval)
Stanley Morrell (Jean Baptiste)
Katherine Noisette (Madge)
Charles Moore (Jack Stewart)
Nora Newsome (Agnes)
George Randol (Bill Prescott)
A. B. Comathiere (An outlaw)
Carl Mahon (Jango)

Synopsis

Edith Duval, a former maid, occupies a Southside Chicago mansion after it is abandoned by its wealthy  owner.  She is part of a wild crowd that likes to gamble, dance and have a good time.  One night, when she throws a huge party for her friends, Jean Baptiste, a sincere young man, confesses his love for her.  Edith is delighted and tells Jean her plans to turn the house into a gambling club.  Outraged by the suggestion, Jean declares his desire to take her away to a farm in South Dakota to earn an honest living.  Edith, however, scornfully sends him away.

Five years later, Jean has become a successful farmer.  Meanwhile, Agnes, the daughter of his neighbor, is very attracted to him and, although Jean returns her love, he breaks off the romance because he is afraid that she will have a difficult life if they marry because she is white.

Brokenhearted, Jean returns to Chicago. There, he visits Edith’s nightclub, and determined to put Agnes behind him, proposes to Edith again. This time she happily accepts.  Unfortunately, an old lover of Edith’s shoots her in a jealous rage and Jean is accused of her murder.  Upon seeing his name in the paper, Agnes decides to go to his aid. Her father tells her that her mother was of Ethiopian descent, so it is all right for her to marry Jean. Just as she arrives in Chicago, she meets Jean, who has been completely cleared of the crime. The two set off for a happy married life in South Dakota.

Notes

This film, which was billed as the “first Negro talker,” was Micheaux’s first sound film. The Variety review notes that it “runs” only partly in dialogue, the rest of the film uses sound synchronization.

Modern sources note that after a successful premiere in New York, the first showing in Pittsburgh was halted midway by two members of the Pennsylvania Board of Censors, because, they claimed, it lacked a seal indicating that it had been passed by the Board. There was speculation at the time that the real reason was that certain scenes showed a black man making love to a light-skinned woman.

Modern sources give the following information about the production: that Micheaux thought that his ending, which ultimately skirted the issue of interracial love, would allow the picture to be shown; that a second version of The Exile was made because Micheaux was unhappy with Stanley Morrell’s performance; and that many scenes were reportedly reshot with Lorenzo Tucker in the lead role, and advertisements were printed announcing him in the starring role.  No prints of the Tucker version have been located, and it is possible the film may not have been completed.

Source(s)
TCM; Poster Source:  Wikipedia.

DIRTY GERTIE FROM HARLEM, U.S.A.

Dirty Gertie from Harlem, USADetails
Year of Release:  1946
Genre:  Drama/Romance
Rating:  N/A
Runtime:  60 mins/65 mins.
Black & White
Studio: Sack Amusement Enterprises
Producer:  Alfred N. Sack & Bert Goldberg
Director:  Spencer Williams

Cast
Francine Everett (Gertie LaRue)
Don Wilson (Diamond Joe)
Kathrine Moore (Stella Van Johnson)
Alfred Hawkins (Jonathan Christian)
Boykin (Ezra Crumm)
Piano Frank (Larry)
John King (Al)
Shelly Ross (Big Boy)
Hugh Watson (Tight Pants)
Don Gilbert (Manager)
Spencer Williams (Old Hager)

Synopsis

Dirty Gertie From Harlem still #10When famous Harlem dancer Gertie LaRue arrives on the island of Rinidad, she is given celebrity treatment and taken to the Paradise Hotel, where she and her assistant, Stella Van Johnson, are placed in the posh bridal suite.  The hotel’s proprietor, Diamond Joe, is smitten with Gertie, but Gertie ignores Stella’s suggestion that she take an interest in him.  Meanwhile members of Gertie’s troupe discuss Gertie’s past relationship with a generous man named Al, who Gertie treated poorly and deserted.  Gertie has earned the nickname “Dirty Gertie” for the casual nature in which she entices and then humiliates men.

AlsoDirty Gertie From Harlem still #4 staying at the hotel is the pious Mr. Jonathan Christian and his assistant Ezra Crumm, two missionaries who have come to the island to lecture about sin. Having witnessed Gertie’s flirtatious behavior on the boat, Mr. Christian tells Ezra that she is a “painted trollop.”  Gertie remains true to her reputation as a gregarious flirt when she joins a sailor named Tight Pants and a soldier named Big Boy for a drink at the Diamond Palace lounge.  The bar’s piano player recognizes Gertie and plays a tune intended to stir memories of her troubled past in Harlem and her relationship with his friend Al.  When Gertie returns to the hotel drunk and in the company of the two military men, Mr. Christian watches in horror as she kisses both of them.  Gertie faints when Mr. Christian emerges from the shadows.  When she regains consciousness, she misinterprets his actions and accuses him of trying to take advantage of her.

Dirty Gertie From Harlem still #7Later that day, Gertie, having been spooked by bad omens since her arrival on the island, goes to a fortune teller, an old woman named Old Hager.  The old woman looks into her crystal ball and sees Gertie’s misdeeds and has a vision of a man coming after her. However, neither the medium’s predictions nor Mr. Christian’s best efforts to have the Diamond Palace shut down prevent Gertie from taking the stage and performing her striptease.

Dirty Gertie From Harlem still #11During her act, Mr. Christian takes to the stage and orders an end to the show.  A brawl ensues when he grabs Gertie, but Diamond Joe whisks her out of the club and takes her back to the hotel.

 

 

Alone in her room, Gertie is unhappy with the image of herself in the mirror. At that moment Al bursts into the room and shoots her.  When Stella and the police rush into the room, Al tells them that he killed her because he loved her.

Dirty Gertie From Harlem still #12Notes

As noted by modern sources, the storyline of the film is loosely based on W. Somerset Maugham’s 1921 short story “Miss Thompson.”  The story was adapted for the stage by John Colton and Clemence Randolph as Rain in 1922, and for motion pictures several times including Miss Sadie Thompson in 1928 starring Gloria Swanson and the 1932 Rain starring Joan Crawford.

Sources

TCM; William Jones:  Black Cinema Treasures Lost and Found; Blaxploitation Pride.