Release Date: 8/1/1936
Black & White
Director(S): Marc Connelly, William Keighley
Studio(s): Warner Bros.
Running Time: 93 mins.
Cast: Rex Ingram, Oscar Polk, Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, Frank H. Wilson, George Reed, Abraham Gleaves , Edna Mae Harris, James Fuller.
Details: The Green Pastures depicts stories from the Bible as visualized by black characters. The story, set in a small black church in the deep South, relates incidents from the Bible — seen in a series of vignettes — as a preacher teaches his Sunday school class. Based on Roark Bradford’s 1928 novel, “Ol’ Man Adam an’ His Chillun'” and the 1930 play of the same name by Marc Connelly.
Synopsis: One fine Sunday in the Louisiana delta, a black preacher, Mr. Deshee, tells Bible stories to his Sunday school class. In order to help the children, visualize God and heaven, he describes them in terms of a Southern fish fry: De Lawd looks exactly like their preacher, and except for their wings, the angels look exactly like members of the congregation. De Lawd creates too much firmament one day, so he creates the sun and earth to drain it away. After realizing what good farmland he has made, De Lawd creates Adam and Eve to live on it. Sadly, De Lawd is disappointed by Adam and Eve’s descendants. After punishing Cain for Abel’s murder, De Lawd leaves the Earth alone for a while, but the next time he returns, he again finds a wicked world. Because he believes that a small-town preacher, named Noah is an exception, De Lawd orders him to build an ark and then sends the rains down to destroy the rest of humanity.
Soon, however, things have gotten bad again and De Lawd decides that man does not have enough to do, so he gives Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan and sends Moses to lead them out of Egypt. Moses and Aaron secure the release of the Hebrew slaves only after confounding the Egyptian pharaoh with their magic tricks and killing his son. The Israelites reach the promised land, but De Lawd gets so disgusted with his children that he renounces them. Not even a delegation of angels can convince him to take them back. Yet a soft voice from Earth reaches De Lawd, and he realizes that mercy can be earned through suffering. De Lawd then wonders if this means that even God must suffer, and his question is answered by the life of Jesus Christ. Sunday school is over, and the children file out into the countryside that looks so much like heaven.
Notes: The Green Pastures was one of only six feature films in the Hollywood Studio era to feature an all-black cast, though elements of it were criticized by civil rights activists. A review of the film in The Spectator gave the film a generally good review but stated that one may feel uneasy at the film’s “humor” and the depiction of “the negro mind”. The review went on to say that the result is occasionally patronizing, too often quaint, and at the close of the film definitely false. Despite criticisms about its racial stereotyping, The Green Pastures proved to be an enormously popular film. It remained the highest-grossing all-black-cast film until the release of Carmen Jones in 1954. Source(s): youtube; tcm.com; Wikipedia. Photo Sources: Daarac.org; IMDB.