Release Date: 4/20/1922
Director: Richard E. Norman
Studio(s): Norman Film Manufacturing. Co.
Running Time: Unknown
Cast: Anita Bush (Anita Nelson), Lawrence Chenault (Bob Calem), Bill Pickett (Bill), Steve Reynolds (Bob’s Sidekick, billed as The One-Legged Marvel).
Story: When the peaceful black city of Boley, Oklahoma falls under the control of an outlaw known as “The Skull” and his band of henchman, “The Terrors,” the Boley Law and Order League offers a one thousand-dollar reward for the Skull’s capture, dead or alive. The League also forces the resignation of the sheriff, a Skull puppet, and gives the job to the respected Lem Nelson, a cattleman and owner of the Crown C ranch. Bob Calem, the Crown C foreman, volunteers to infiltrate the Skull’s gang in order to hasten the criminals’ capture. When Steve Reynolds, a one-legged cowboy, and Anita Nelson, Lem’s daughter, as well as Bob’s sweetheart, are kidnapped by the gang, Bob helps them to escape. He is accused of being a traitor, but the gang cannot decide whether Bob is guilty or innocent, so they leave his fate to the test of “The Crimson Skull,” in which one drop of blood will determine whether he lives or dies.
To rid the range of a gang of outlaws that are rustling cattle and robbing the banks and stagecoaches, cowhand Bob Calem, working on the gang-leader’s superstitions, dons a skeleton-costume to strike fear into the gang.
Notes: Norman Film Manufacturing Co. was located in Jacksonville, FL. According to its pressbook, the film was produced in “the All-Colored City of Boley, Okla.” Lawrence Chenault, who played three roles, including the film’s hero and villain, had earlier been a member of the Anita Bush Dramatic Stock Company. Bush, who made her motion picture debut in The Crimson Skull, started acting in New York theater in 1903, and following her success at the Lincoln Theater in Harlem, became known as “The Little Mother of Colored Drama.” The pressbook stated that the film’s “action and story [are] on a par with white productions with the drawing feature of a cast composed entirely of colored artists. (There is not a white character in it.) And a story free from the usual mimicry of the colored man; free from ‘race problems’ that engender friction.” Publicity material stated that the cast included “30 colored cowboys.” Source(s): TCM; DAARAC.org; IMDB.