Body and soul, directed by the legendary african american filmmaker oscar micheaux, is a direct critique of the power of the cloth, casting robeson in dual roles as a jackleg preacher and a wellmeaning inventor. How oscar micheaux defied hollywood to make the first all. Though he may be forgotten today, micheaux was the first major africanamerican filmmaker. Body and soul, directed by the legendary africanamerican filmmaker oscar micheaux, is a direct critique of the power of the cloth, casting paul robeson in dual roles as a jackleg preacher and a wellmeaning inventor. While robeson gives a vibrant, naturalistic performance, body and soul is perhaps best understood as a work by oscar micheaux, the most prolific and enduring director of race movies. The films of oscar micheaux 8 minutes regenerationrichard e. Body and soul by oscar micheaux, 1925 new original score. Body and soul is a 1925 race film produced, written, directed, and distributed by oscar micheaux and starring paul robeson in his. Were about to find out as robeson signed on to make a film with pioneering africanamerican producerdirectorwriter oscar micheaux. Winning the most acclaim were body and soul, harlem after midnight, and within our gates. It also addresses the politics of racial identity and the quest for racial unity in a period when the class structure within the. Spencer williams, whose masterpiece the blood of jesus is among the most celebrated race films of the era. Oscar devereaux micheaux was an american author and film director.
An escaped convict paul robesonits a silent film so unfortunately robeson the magnificent basso profundo doesnt sing has made his way to a small town in georgia, where he is impersonating a protestant. Renee baker brings jazz to body and soul, oscar micheaux. Directed by the pioneering oscar micheaux 18841951 and rarely shown, the film features paul robeson 18981976 in his motionpicture. A message in these films is that the practice of religion, without thoughtfulness of the part of those who practice, may not lead people in the right direction. Body and soul was directed by oscar micheaux, who may not be a household name but who is still a very important figure in the development of american film.
Oscar micheaux october 2, 1884 1951 was a pioneering african american author and filmmaker, and without a doubt the most famous producer of race films. Writer and director oscar micheaux regularly created films that dealt with troubling africanamerican issues, church issues, and personal issues, often doing it in a way which offended the black audience. Body and soul, directed by the legendary african american filmmaker oscar micheaux. On september 20, gordon conducted the lincoln center jazz orchestra in a public tech rehearsal of his new original score to body and soul, oscar micheaux s classic 1925 silent film. With paul robeson, mercedes gilbert, julia theresa russell. A minister is malevolent and sinister behind his righteous facade. In this good versus bad twin melodrama, robeson plays both an escaped convict posing as a minister, and the convicts honest, yet penniless brother. Body and soul 1925, the bestknown silent film of pioneer black filmmaker oscar micheaux, offered paul robeson, the great singeractorathlete, his first opportunity in films.
Clip from body and soul as the era rocked on, only one black dreamweaver survived the competition from hollywood and even the great depression. Paul robeson and julia theresa russell star in this scene from a remastered version of oscar micheaux s 1925 film body and soul. So the rutgers football star and columbiaeducated lawyer made his film debut under the aegis of oscar micheaux, a goitalone entrepreneur who made his socially potent, artistically amateurish pictures on the supercheap. Body and soul is a 1925 race film produced, written, directed, and distributed by oscar micheaux and starring paul robeson in his motion. Micheaux or sometimes written as michaux, was born near metropolis, illinois and grew up in great bend, kansas, one of. Mainstream avenues were limited, however, and his first films were made on the peripheries of the film business. An escaped prisoner seeks refuge in the predominantly africanamerican town of tatesville, georgia, by passing. But with no money left for reshoots, producer oscar micheaux shot a quick ending which makes most of the films action a dream of the. Among the trailblazing artists whose work is featured here are oscar micheaux, the first major african american feature filmmaker, whose body of work includes body and soul, starring paul robeson in his film debut, and within our gates. He consorts with, and later extorts from, the owner of a gambling house, and betrays an honest girl, eventually driving them both to ruin.
In within our gates and body and soul oscar micheaux encourages viewers to question. He is obviously an incredibly important film maker who has not gotten his due for the unfortunately obvious reason of his race. Oscar micheaux s place in history is slowly becoming clear to me. As an example of very early africanamerican filmmaking and of one kind of race picture created solely for the africanamerican audience, and as the cinematic debut of the powerful american actor and singer paul robeson, body is invaluable for those with an interest in the cinemas background and. Body and soul oscar micheaux, 1925 counter programming the great movies written by rick april 19, 2015 part of an ongoing effort to watch a set of films from nonwhite, nonu. Although predated by the short lived lincoln motion picture company that put out smaller films, he is regarded as the first africanamerican feature filmmaker, and the most prominent producer of race films. Body and soul is a 1925 film directed by oscar micheaux. This film didnt need special effects to be appreciated or tell the. This film didnt need special effects to be appreciated or tell the story. How oscar micheaux defied hollywood to make the first allblack feature film. Micheaux s body and soul doubtless was also about money because he had to pay bills too, but its obvious he was into his craft. Oscars best picture winners best picture winners golden globes emmys san diego comiccon new york comiccon sundance film festival toronto intl film festival awards central festival central all events. Body and soul pioneering filmmaker oscar micheaux s 1925 film body and soul was one the first 12 films that he made, from his start as a director in 1919.
Pioneers of africanamerican cinema kino lorber theatrical. Its one of the films included in the box set pioneers of africanamerican. Micheaux s films blended entertainment with biting social commentary. Body and soul is of much greater historical and cultural significance than of dramatic import. His later film body and soul, starring paul robeson, had four of the nine reels cut by authorities. Oscar micheaux s body and soul and the burden of representation by pearl bowser and louise spence this essay explores oscar micheaux s silent drama body and soul 1925 and some of the critical discourses of the period.
Watching these films, i have to wonder what he might have done with, say, a big budget and a. Robeson has a dual role, playing both an escaped convict who presents himself as a. Body and soul follows the film follows the exploits of an escaped. Thats what chicago composerconductor renee baker and music editor don dinicola have been doing with body and soul, oscar micheaux s groundbreaking a 1925 race film. The legendary paul robesonactor, singer, lawyer, and political activistmade a blistering screen debut in this silent masterpiece by the prolific independent black director oscar micheaux. In 2019, the film was selected by the library of congress for inclusion in the national film registry for being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. Body and soul oscar micheaux, 1925 counter programming. Robeson excels in a dual role, playing both an escaped convict who presents.
Late in oscar micheaux s 1925 silent film classic body and soul, there is a scene in which paul robeson, playing an escaped convict posing. In celebration of black history month, the chicago symphony orchestras african american network presents a screening on feb. Oscar micheaux 1 18841951 filmmaker, author pioneer roots and an enterprising spirit 2 began trend in race films 3 honored by cinematic community after his death 4 selected writings 5 sources 6 no history of american cinema is complete without the inclusion of oscar micheaux 7, a. Body and soul follows the film follows the exploits of an escaped prisoner who seeks refuge in the town of tatesville, georgia, by passing. It emanated the typical and cynical parody of life which has manifested throughout generations. On u filmu tumaci dvostruku ulogu brace blizanaca, od kojih je jedan odbjegli kriminalac koji glumi svecenika, a drugi siromasan ali cestit. Csos african american network to present the film body and soul. This essay explores oscar micheauxs silent drama body and soul 1925 and. The copy of body and soul available today has the jazz film score by wycliffe gordon added to it in 2000.
Tijelo i dusa je americki nijemi rasni film snimljen 1925. Over the next three decades, micheaux wrote, produced, and directed more than 40 silent features and talkies. Oscar micheaux s 1925 film body and soul is the earliest surviving feature by an africanamerican director. Body and soul is a story about the abuse of religious faith and how the veneration of minster over family can lead to tragedy.
A compelling new live jazz score accompanies screenings of. Lets continue to embrace the melodrama with the 1925 silent race film, body and soul. Body and soul is a 1925 race film produced, written, directed, and distributed by oscar micheaux and starring paul robeson in his motion picture debut. Purple rain, clerks, shes gotta have it added to national film registry. Body and soul is a masterpiece of the silent screen era, written, directed, and produced by prolific director oscar micheaux. Robeson has a dual role, playing both an escaped convict who presents himself as a minister, and the convicts upstanding brother. Oscar micheauxs body and soul and the burden of representation. It is the film that firmly established what could be called the micheaux style, and a seminal film in the history and advancement of black cinema. Csos african american network to present the film body. Oscar micheauxs body and soul and the burden of representation by pearl bowser and louise spence this essay explores oscar micheauxs silent drama body and soul 1925 and some of the critical discourses of the period.
Pioneers of african american cinema the criterion channel. Its the story of sister martha jane mercedes gilbert, a devout churchgoer whose hard work has resulted in a nice nest egg. Unfortunately his mastery of technique wasnt very good. Yet, body and soul is the only film he made with an african american director, a relatively unacknowledged fact. In 1931, when most black independants were closing up shop he released the exile, the first alltalking motion picture made by a black company. Micheauxs body and soul doubtless was also about money because he had to pay bills too, but its obvious he was into his craft. Like don byron, trombonist wycliffe gordon is shedding light on the lost art of live silent film accompaniment. Directed by the pioneering oscar micheaux 18841951 and rarely shown, the film features paul robeson 18981976 in his motionpicture debut.1275 1439 239 1385 983 1297 1342 761 1541 617 1057 1182 1550 71 487 342 1171 1564 820 106 962 796 1178 639 1202 166 466 720 1241 347 1461 557 1177