A Son of Satan

Release Date:  9/18/1924
Runtime: 70 mins.
Black & White
Studio:  Micheaux Film
Director:  Oscar Micheaux

Andrew S. Bishop, Lawrence Chenault, Emmet Anthony, Edna Morton, Monte Hawley, Shingzie Howard, Ida Anderson, E. G. Tatum, Dink Stewart, W. B. F. Crowell, Olivia Sewall, Mildred Smallwood, Blanche Thompson, Margaret Brown, and Professor Hosay. Some of the original cast from the hit Broadway musicals Shuffle Along and Runnin’ Wild appear in the movie, including Aubrey Lyles and F. E. Miller, Adelaide Hall, Arthur Cooper, Mildred Baker, Ina Duncan, and Arthur Porter.

Movie depicts the experiences of an African-American man spending the night in a haunted house as a result of an argument.  The film contained scenes of drinking, of masked men becoming drunk, the stoning of a cat, a man murdering his wife, and the killing of a leader of “the hooded organization.”

The working title of this film was The Ghost of Tolston’s Manor. Shooting began March 26, 1923 at a Bronx studio, then moved to an outdoor location in Roanoke, VA, according to a news item. The house used in the film was more than two hundred years old and was located at Clason’s Point, NY.   Critic D. Ireland Thomas, writing in the African-American newspaper Chicago Defender, commented, “Some May not like the production because it shows up some of our Race in their true colors. They might also protest against the language used…. I must admit that it is true to nature, yes, I guess, too true. We have got to hand it to Oscar Micheaux when it comes to giving us the real stuff.”

A Son of Satan ran into distribution problems when state censorship boards rejected the film based on its contents. New York censors objected to the film’s depiction of violence, particularly against women and animals, while Virginia censors complained the film’s references to miscegenation would “prove offensive to Southern ladies”.  The film’s protagonist was biracial.  According to the board, “the central figure in the plot is a mulatto whose villainies justify the significant title of the photoplay.”  Even more scandalous to the white board members was that “the audience is led to believe that the criminal tendencies of the man are inherited from his white forefathers.”

This film is presumed lost.

Source(s):  TCM; DAARAC.org; Movie Censorship and American Culture, Race, Gender, and Film Censorship in Virginia, 1922–1965.

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