Year of Release: 1931
Runtime: 93 min.
Black & White
Studio: Micheaux Film Corp.
Director(s): Leonard Harper & Oscar Micheaux
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)
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.
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.
TCM; Poster Source: Wikipedia.