The Secret Sorrow

Details

Release Date:   10/1/1921
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  N/A
Studio:  Reol Productions Corp.
Writer:  S. C. Brown
Black & White
Silent

Cast

George Edward Brown, Percy Verwayen, Edna Morton, Lawrence Chenault, Inez Clough, Ida Anderson

Synopsis

Anne Morgan, a poverty-stricken woman decides to give up one of her two sons to a prominent doctor willing to adopt him. The doctor names the child Arthur and sends him to law school, after which he becomes the assistant district attorney of New York.  Meanwhile, the other brother, Joe, raised by his mother, grows up to be a notorious gangster.  Joe works for Sam Dungan, a crooked politician and owner of several notorious dives.

When Joe is falsely accused of murder, Arthur is assigned to the case as the prosecuting attorney.  During the trial, Arthur calls Anne to the stand, not realizing that she is his own mother, and accuses her of moral degeneracy as he tries to paint an evil portrait of Joe. Dungan’s daughter Grace, who is Arthur’s sweetheart, discovers the truth about the brothers, and after finding the real murderer, sees that the mother and her sons are reunited. She then joins the happy family as Arthur’s bride.

This film is considered lost.  Sources:  Daarac.org; TCM.

 

The Lure Of A Woman

Release Date:  8/21/1921
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  NR
Director:  J.M. Simms
Studio:  Progress Picture Association
Running Time:  75 mins.
B&W
Silent

Cast:  John Cobb, Regina Cohee, Dr. A. Porter Davis, Lenore Jones, Alonzo Nixon, Regina Taylor

Details:  According to information in the George P. Johnson Collection at the UCLA Special Collections Library, this was the first release of The Afro-American Film Exhibitors Co. of Kansas City, Missouri. An advertisement called the film “the first Negro production ever made in Kansas City” and stated, “All the cast in this production are Kansas City Negroes. All the scenes were taken about the city.” Charles H. Allen, the male lead, was the general manager and treasurer of the company. They planned a series of eight films that would be released in Central and South America, as well as in the U.S., and boasted of a distribution policy “that will enable it to overcome some of the difficulties usual to colored pictures.” Their second release was to be called The Human Devil.

There is no  information available regarding the plot of this film.

An item in the 14 May 1922 Kansas City Kansan reported that a print of the film caught fire during a screening at Western University. The audience was evacuated, and only the film print was burned.

Source(s):  TCM; IMDB; American Film Institute (AFI) catalog.  Photo Source:  Wiki Commons.

The Colored American Winning His Suit

Details:
Year of Release: 1916
Genre: Drama
Rating: N/A
Runtime: Unknown
Silent
Black & White
Studio:  Frederick Douglass Film Company

Cast: 
Thomas M. Mosley (Bob Winall)
Ida Askins (Alma Elton)
Florence Snead (Bessie Winall)
Marshall Davies (Jim Sample)
F. King (Mr. Hinderus)
Fred Leighton (Colonel Goodwill)

Synopsis:

Freed from slavery after the Civil War, the Winalls rent a farm from their former master. They prosper, eventually buy the farm, and have two children, Bob and Bessie, whom they send to college. Returning home as a lawyer, Bob falls in love with Bessie’s roommate Alma Eaton, however her mother wants her to marry a wealthy man instead. But when Alma’s father gets into trouble with the law, Bob goes up against a white man, Mr. Hinderus, in court and with the help of Colonel Goodwill, saves the day.  The white man’s attempt to “hinderus” having failed, clearing the way for Bob’s marriage to Alma.

Notes:

First feature film made by a Black production company.  The Frederick Douglass Film Company of New Jersey, whose officers included some of the most prominent black citizens of Jersey City and whose purpose was “to give the public motion pictures which do not degrade the race.”  According to the press book, The Colored American Winning His Suit was aimed “to offset the evil effects of certain photo plays that have libeled the Negro and criticized his friends; to bring about a better and more friendly understanding between the white and colored races; to inspire in the Negro a desire to climb higher in good citizenship, business, education and religion.”

The New York Age (July 20, 1916), hailed the film as “the first five-reel Film Drama written, directed, acted and produced by Negroes” and praised the company, which was “owned and operated by Negroes” and “whose aim is to present the better side of Negro life, and to use the screen as a means of bringing about better feeling between the races.”

The cast was made up of non-actors from the Jersey City, NJ area. Scenes were shot in Virginia, Jersey City, and at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

This film is considered lost.

Source(s):  TCM; Literary Adaptations in Black American Cinema: From Micheaux to Toni Morrison by Barbara Tepa Lupack; IMDB.

The Burden of Race

Details
Year of Release:  1921
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  N/A
Runtime:  Unknown
Black & White
Silent
Studio:  Reol Productions
Producer:  Robert Lévy
Director:  Unknown
Studio: Reol Productions

Cast
Percy Verwayen
Edna Morton
Lawrence Chenault
Elizabeth Williams
Mabel Young
Arthur Ray

Synopsis

A young college student who excels both academically and athletically falls in love with a girl – not of his own people – and for her he risked his life.  After graduation, he becomes extremely successful in the world of business, finding in this girl a constant source of inspiration.  She loved him, but – according to the film’s press book – “between them stretched a mighty chasm.”  Did a great love triumph?

This film is considered lost.

Source(s):  TCM, Allmovies, Department of Afro American Research and Culture, Photo Source: Department of Afro American Research and Culture.

Giant Of His Race, A

Details
Year of Release:  1921
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  N/A
Runtime:   mins.
Black & White
Silent
Studio: North State Film Corporation, Norman Film Manufacturing Co.
Director:  Ben Strasser

Cast
Mabel Holmes, Walter Holeby, Walter Long, Ruth Freeman 

Synopsis
Covington, the son of a slave, works his way through medical school, and upon graduating, devotes his life to uplifting his race.  When the yellow plague begins decimating the members of the black community where he has established a thriving practice, Covington spends hours in his laboratory trying to find a cure.  Finally, when a young teacher offers herself as a subject for his experiments, he finds the cure and is awarded $100,000 for his discovery.  Having saved his race from the epidemic, Covington and the teacher fall in love and marry.

This film is considered lost.

Sources
TMC; Daaracarchive.org.

The Gunsaulus Mystery

Details
Year of Release:  1921
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  N/A
Runtime:   Unknown
Black & White
Silent
Studio:  Micheaux Film Corp.
Director & Producer:  Oscar Micheaux

Cast
Lawrence Chenault (Anthony Brisbane)
Evelyn Preer (Ida May Gilpin)
Dick Abrams (Sidney Wyeth)
Louis De Bulger (Lem Hawkins)

Synopsis
Myrtle Gunsaulus, a young African-American girl, is found murdered in the basement of a New York City factory by Arthur Gilpin, the black janitor.  Gilpin is charged with the murder and arrested.  His sister, Ida May, hires her former boyfriend, defense attorney Sidney Wyeth, to represent him.  During the sensational trial, Wyeth is able to prove Arthur’s innocence.  Janitor Lem Hawkins makes a confession which implicates the sexually perverted white superintendent and general manager of the factory.   The Gunsaulus Mystery was inspired by the trial of Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan in which Frank, a white factory foreman, threatened a black janitor into helping him dispose of his young, female victim.

Notes
According to an unidentified news item from the African-American newspaper Chicago Defender, “the story is built around and about the famous Leo M. Frank trial which took place in Georgia some years ago…in which a member of the Jewish race was convicted of the murder of a young factory girl on the alleged confession of one of ‘our folks,’ who was employed by the same firm.”  A Chicago Defender ad for the film states that filmmaker Oscar Micheaux was in the courtroom during the Frank trial.  After Frank was sentenced to death, Georgia Governor John M. Slaton issued a stay of execution, but Frank was lynched by a mob after Slaton commuted his sentence to life imprisonment.

Micheaux revisited the subject again in 1935 with a sound remake, which was released under the titles Murder in Harlem, a/k/a Brand of Cain a/k/a Lem Hawkins’ Confession. Especially in this version, Micheaux used the conventions of the detective story to introduce differing narratives and rework the binary nature of the trial, in which an African-American man and Jewish-American man had testified against each other.

This film is considered lost.

Source(s) 
New York Times, All Movies, TCM, Department of Afro American Research and Culture (Daaracarchive.org).