The Bull Dogger

Release Date:  1921/1922
Silent
Black & White
Genre:  Western
Director:   Richard E. Norman
Studio(s):  Norman Film Manufacturing Company
Running Time:  50 mins.

Cast:  Bill Pickett, Bennie Turpin, Anita Bush, Steve Reynolds

Details:  The Bull-Dogger was a feature-length Western starring real-life African American cowboy Bill Pickett.

An excerpt from the Exhibitor’s Herald, states “A virile story of the golden west, featuring Bill Pickett, the Black hero of the Mexican bull ring, in death defying feats of courage and skill, such as wild horse racing, roping and tying wild steers.  The picture also includes fancy and trick riding by Black cowboys and cowgirls and bull dogging and throwing with their teeth, the wildest steers on the Mexican border. This is the first feature picture of its kind, and proves conclusively that the Black cowboy is capable of doing anything the white cowboy does.” – excerpt from the Exhibitor’s Herald.

This film is considered lost, only fragments survive.

Notes:  The film was produced by Norman Film Manufacturing Company, a Jacksonville, FL based company headed by Richard E. Norman, a white filmmaker who catered to black audiences.  Shooting took place in and around Wellington, Okmulgee, Oklahoma City and Boley, Oklahoma, as noted in the February 27, 1922 Vicksburg Evening Post, which advertised screenings that day and the next at the Princess Theatre in Vicksburg, MS.  An item in the same issue noted that Boley, OK, was an “all-colored city.”

An article in the February 1997 Texas Monthly stated that Bill Pickett was fifty years old at the time of production. Publicity for The Bull-Dogger quoted U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt on the film’s star: “Bill Pickett’s name will go down in Western history as being one of the best trained ropers and riders the West has produced.”  Sources:  daarac.org; tcm.com; American Film Institute catalog; Photo Sources:  daarac.org; Wikipedia.

Movie Clip:

Spitfire

Release Date:  7/24/1922
Genre:   Drama
Director:  Unknown
Studio(s):   Reol Productions Corp.
Running Time:  Unknown
Cast:   Edna Morton, Lawrence Chenault, George Edward Brown, Daisy Martin, Mabel Young, Sam Cook, Edward Williams.

Synopsis:  Guy Rogers, the son of a well-known publisher, sets out to prove his father’s racist critics wrong by putting Booker T. Washington’s philosophy into practice. He goes to a little Maryland Hills town where through his efforts a school and a library are built. He falls in love with Ruth Hill, whose recently widowed father, an ex-schoolteacher, is killed after being involved in horse thievery. “Buck” Bradley, the local dealer in hay and feed, who put Ruth’s father up to the crime, has been made her guardian, and he beats up Guy when he tries to defend her. She nurses Guy back to health, love blooms, and they marry.

Alternative Synopsis:  A young colored novelist has written a novel dealing with colored folks, but is told by his by publisher that it lacks the aura of reality because he has not lived among the lowly folk about whom he attempts to write. In search of such experience, he goes to a little Maryland settlement and there meets the daughter of a farmer who, by reason of her quick temper, has been nicknamed “Spitfire.” Her father is in the clutches of a gang of horse thieves headed by Bradley, and it is the rounding up of the gang and the love that springs up between the young novelist and the country lass that provide the theme.  Source(s):  TCM; DAARAC; IMDB.

The Schemers

Release Date:  8/19/1922
Genre:  Drama
Director:  Unknown
Studio(s):  Reol Production Corp.
Running Time:  Unknown
Silent
Black & White

Cast:  Edna Morton, G. Edward Brown, Lawrence Chenault, Walter Thomas, Bob Slater, Orma Crosby.

Synopsis:   Paul Jackson, a black research chemist with a drug company, is close to success in his attempt to develop a chemical substitute for gasoline. Juan Bronson, who is the private secretary of John Davidson, the president of the company, conspires with Miguel Anderson to steal Paul’s formula. Believing Paul to be carrying the formula, Bronson and Anderson kidnap him, but the papers are not on his person. Paul manages to call Isobel Benton, his sweetheart, and instructs her to go to his laboratory for the papers. Anderson overhears the conversation and also goes there, but Isobel outwits him and gets away with the formula. Anderson then frames Paul for the theft of some other important formulas, and Paul gives his formula back to Isobel for safekeeping. Anderson abducts Isobel, and Paul rescues her with the help of Davidson and a detective. Isobel proves Paul’s innocence, and the detective tells Davidson that Bronson and Anderson are notorious criminals, wanted by a South American government.

Source(s):  TCM; DAARAC; IMDB.

Easy Money

Release Date:  3/29/1922
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  NR
Director:  Unknown
Studio(s):  Reol Productions Corp.
Silent
Black & White

Cast:  Sherman H. Dudley (Andy Simpson), Edna Morton (Margie Watkins), H. L. Pryor,  Inez Clough,  Alex K. Shannon, Percy Verwayen.

Synopsis:  Andy Simpson, constable, blacksmith and all-round mechanic of Millbrook, a thrifty little southern town, is looked upon as slow, plodding, and lacking in ambition by all save Margie Watkins, his sweetheart and daughter of the bank president. Margie, however, becomes attracted to J. Overton Tighe (a partner of James Bradford, notorious promoter of “wildcat” investments), who is newly arrived in town in an expensive car. Despite Andy’s warnings, the townspeople eagerly buy shares in a phony stock promoted by Tighe. Mrs. Watkins even persuades her husband to invest some of the bank’s funds in the enterprise. Even after he finds conclusive evidence, Andy hesitates to arrest Tighe, for an arrest would mean the ruin of Margie’s father. Margie, apparently disregarding Andy’s advice, continues her affair with Tighe, and they become engaged. Tighe finds oil on Andy’s land and buys it for a song. Andy finally exposes Tighe’s real business in Millbrook (which is more serious than swindling), arrests Tighe, and in the end turns the tables on the shrewd promoter and himself gets the easy money.

Alternate Synopsis:  He was poor. A rich man was courting his girl. He discovered the fake stock scheme of his rival. He exposes the plot and became the man of the hour. Then he turned the tables on the rich man and won back his sweetheart. See the exciting raid on the stock gambler’s house. See the sensational leap from a tree to a speeding automobile. See the thrilling rescue of the banker’s daughter from death. See the triumph of a small-town constable in the whirlwind climax of ‘Easy Money’.  Source(s):  TCM; DAARAC.

The Call of His People

Details
Year of Release:   7/15/1921
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  N/A
Runtime:   Unknown
Black & White
Silent
Studio:  Reol Productions Corp.

Cast
George Edward Brown
Edna Morton
Mae Kemp
James Steven
Lawrence Chenault
Mercedes Gilbert
Percy Verwayen
 
Synopsis

Nelson Holmes, an African American who has passed for White for twenty years, has advanced from office boy to the position of general manager at the Brazilian-American Coffee Syndicate.  One day Nelson is visited by James Graves, a boyhood friend from the South who is looking for a job as a Spanish correspondent. Fearing that his secret will be discovered, Nelson urges Graves to pose as a Spaniard, but Graves refuses. Finally Nelson agrees to make Graves his private secretary if he will remain quiet about Nelson’s true race.  Graves accepts, though he feels contempt for Nelson.  Deeply affected by seeing Graves again, Nelson pays a visit to Graves’ sister Elinor, who was his childhood sweetheart. Elinor is cold to him, angered by his denial of his own people. When a representative of the Santos Company, a competitor who is trying to put the Brazilian-American Coffee Syndicate out of business, offers Nelson a bribe to destroy some contracts that could ruin the company, Nelson indignantly refuses.  Their conversation is overheard by Beauregard Stuart, Nelson’s co-worker who was vexed that Nelson had received the promotion to general manager rather than him. That night, Graves overhears Stuart make a deal to get the contracts for the Santos representative. As Stuart is about to take the contracts from the company safe, Graves attacks him, and during their struggle, retrieves the contracts. After Graves runs off, Nelson returns to the office, and Stuart mistakes him for his attacker, then accuses him of the theft. The next morning, as Stuart is telling their boss, Lionel Weathering, that Nelson stole the contracts, Elinor arrives with the contracts and a letter from Graves, which proves Stuart’s guilt.  Nelson, extremely grateful for Elinor and Graves’ loyalty, finally informs his boss that he has been passing for white. Weathering assures Nelson that it is the quality and not the color of a man that counts, and Nelson asks Elinor for her hand in marriage, once again proud to be black.

Notes

According to Early Race Filmmaking in America, the movie was based upon the serialized novel The Man Who Would Be White, by Aubrey Bowser.  Bowser’s pedigree featured prominently in the studio’s advertising for the film which states, “Aubrey Bowser…of the colored race and a graduate of Harvard University.”  George P. Johnson described the film as “Mixed cast of white and colored.  Expensive picture, and very good in all departments.  Probably best Negro picture made.  However little high class.”

Reol’s advertising team appealed to racial pride to bring potential moviegoers to the theaters:

MOTHERS — FATHERS
DAUGHTERS – SONS:

If there is anything more binding between you and your Race than the color of your skin or the texture of your hair.  Or those few drops of Negro blood that cannot be detected In either; if you are really interested in our aims, our Achievements and our stations in life, don’t let your work, Scruples, age or anything else keep you from seeing

“THE CALL OF HIS PEOPLE”
Or
“THE MAN WHO WOULD BE WHITE”

Such advertising clearly touted the film as an example of black independent cinema, particularly since almost no mainstream films of this era considered the physiological aspects of race or the dreams and goals of the African-American population.  In his summary of the film, J.A. Jackson of Billboard, a mainstream white industry publication, wrote that it reflects “the ever present anxiety that is associated with the practice that has become so prevalent.”  This “anxiety” alluded to white fear of light-skinned African Americans passing for white.

Filmed at the Irvington-on-the-Hudson, NY estate of Black millionairess, A’Lelia Walker (daughter of Madam C. J. Walker).  Sources:  TMC; Early Race Filmmaking in America by Barbara Lupack (Editor); Daarac.org.

The Sport Of The Gods

Release Date:  4/23/1921
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  NR
Director:  Henry J. Vernot
Studio(s):  Reol Productions Corp.
Running Time:  Unknown
Silent
Black & White

Cast:  Elizabeth Boyer (Kitty Hamilton), Edward R. Abrams (Jim Skaggs), George Edward Brown (Joe Hamilton), Leon Williams (Berry Hamilton), Lucille Browne (Fannie Hamilton), Lindsay J. Hall (Maurice Oakley), Jean Armour (Julia Oakley), Stanley Walpole (Francis Oakley), Walter Thomas (Thomas), Lawrence Chenault (Sadness), Ruby Mason (Mrs. Jones), Edna Morton (Hattie Sterling).

Story:  The story deals with a Black man who is unjustly sent to prison to save the reputation of his white employer’s son, a gambler.  His wife, son and daughter, move to New York rather to escape the scorn and gossip of their neighbors in Virginia. The son associates with evil companions and the daughter becomes a singer in an underworld cabaret where her character is placed in jeopardy. The mother, having been convinced that a prison sentence is the same as a divorce, is persuaded to marry a man who has schemed to get her money. The husband is finally released from jail after the real criminal confesses and he goes to New York to join his family, only to find his wife married. After numerous complications, all ends well.

Notes:  Based on the novel The Sport of the Gods by Paul Lawrence Dunbar.  Source(s):  TCM; DAARAC.org.