Moon Over Harlem: an all-Black film from 1939

Originally published at: Moon Over Harlem: an all-Black film from 1939 | Boing Boing


Looks great!

I’d go back even further for some Oscar Micheaux. He was an amazing pioneering black filmmaker. Here’s Within Our Gates, his response to the horribly racist Birth of a Nation.


Definitely going to watch this.

I wasn’t even aware of this flick. Thanks.


I’ve caught up on a lot of underappreciated classics thanks to this site

Besides obvious musical classics like Cabin in the Sky, Killer Diller and Zou Zou, I really like the unadorned realism of the all-Black dramas of the period.

Ironically their lack of budgets and “glamour” give them a cinema verite feel that’s way more appealing than most of 30s and 40s Hollywood.

Oscar Michaux’s The Girl From Chicago

Souls of Sin

And maybe especially Dirty Gertie from Harlem USA, which has a great lead performance and a proto-feminist message


Here’s one I grew up with because it was a fav of my mom’s:


There was also Shuffle Along (though it’s stage not screen), a broadway play from 1921 with an all-Black cast… Here is an interview with a guy who wrote a book about it from our local public radio station:

And another review of the book…

Eubie Blake did the music and the song “I’m Just Wild About Harry” is from it…

An interesting point about this song is that there were fears it would cause riots, cause it was a Black woman singing about a Black man… also, ecstasy!!! (the horrors!)

It launched the careers of both Josephine Baker AND the magnificent Paul Robeson… this is one of my favorite videos of him, showing working class solidarity with Scottish miners…


Looks like a great flick! But that does depend on what you mean by “launched.” Robeson was already great in his debut, Michaux’s 1925 movie Body and Soul.

(Weird. I tried to link to the movie’s imdb page, but this thread isnt letting me post a link. :woman_shrugging: )

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The original play came out in 1921 and was a massive hit. With regards to Baker, it was what got her to France (and before she left, she was the highest paid chorus girl on Broadway). I’m guessing that his turn in Shuffle Along helped get him the Body and Soul role…


Ah, thanks, now I see the chronology. I was misled by the date on that video.

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If there was a film based on it, I’m guessing that he addresses that in the book (which I have not read yet). It seems like in the 20s there was a decent amount of money for independent productions of plays and films for Black artists, which must have been encouraging at the time and tied up with the Harlem Renaissance more broadly. Sadly, I think the depressed wiped a lot of that out (not just for independent Black artists and producers, either).

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