Fondren festival focuses on rare ‘race movies’

free screening

Fondren festival focuses on rare ‘race movies’

DVD box artSMU’s internationally famous collection of black independent films from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s will be showcased from 7-10 p.m. Oct. 26-27 as part of the Fondren Library AV Bi-Annual Film Festival.

The G. William Jones Film and Video Collection in SMU’s Hamon Arts Library is home to the Tyler, Texas Black Film Collection, from which the festival screenings were chosen. These “race movies,” shown mostly in the segregated movie houses of the mid-20th century American South, were discovered in an East Texas warehouse on miraculously well-preserved nitrate stock in 1983. Transferred to safety film in 1985, several were digitally restored and released in a 3-DVD boxed set in 2004.

“These films stand as a testimony to the history of black independent film in the United States, to the skill and artistry that have existed in the genre for much longer than many people may know,” says Tinsley Silcox, director of public services for SMU’s Central University Libraries (CUL). “They’re also an undistorted glimpse of African-American life in the early 20th century, devoid of the usual Hollywood stereotypes. They’re very representative of African-American self-consciousness of the time.”

Silcox and Rick Worland, professor of cinema-TV in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, will host the festival and provide commentary on the films. All screenings will be held in McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall. Admission is free and open to the public.

The complete schedule:

Movie poster for 'The Broken Earth'Monday, Oct. 26

  • Introduction by Tinsley Silcox
  • The Broken Earth (1939) – A one-reel drama starring Clarence Muse as a hard-working sharecropper whose son becomes ill with a fever. In its acting, writing and cinematography, “this is a powerful, powerful statement that shows the depth and breadth of talent in these films,” Silcox says. It’s an especially important showcase for Muse, whose acting career spanned more than 60 years and included many major Hollywood releases, he adds. “At a time when most mainstream black film characters were servants and comic relief, Muse’s artistry in this role demonstrated the very high dramatic standards African-American performers could achieve.”
  • Juke Joint (1947) – Shot in Dallas, this feature stars pioneering actor-director Spencer Williams and Texas native Robert Orr (credited here under the screen name July Jones) as a pair of con artists, down and out in the Southwest, who pose as theatrical experts to help a girl win a beauty pageant.
  • Midnight Shadow (1939) – Carnival performer Prince Alihabad takes an interest in the daughter of an Old South family when he learns they have oil property in Texas. The daughter’s boyfriend becomes jealous, and murder ensues.

    Movie poster for 'Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A.'Tuesday, Oct. 27

  • Introduction by Rick Worland
  • Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. (1946) – In a screenplay based on W. Somerset Maugham‘s short story Rain, a sexy dancer shakes things up in a sleepy Caribbean island resort.
  • By-Line Newsreels (1953-56) – Newsreels featuring interviews with black government officials in the Eisenhower administration, including Carmel Marr, United Nations employee; Ernest Wilkins, Assistant Secretary of Labor; Samuel Pierce, Undersecretary of Labor; E. Frederick Morrow, one of President Eisenhower’s top aides; and Lois Lippman, the first black member of the White House staff.
  • Vanities (Harlem Hot Shots) (1946) – Charles Keith is the master of ceremonies of a nightclub act.

    For more information, contact Lisa Wall at 214-768-4397.

    Read more about the Tyler, Texas Black Film Collection
    Find more digitized content at the CUL Digital Collections homepage

  • October 23, 2009|Calendar Highlights, News|

    Calendar Highlights: Oct. 6, 2009

    The 1931 Titanic Memorial in Washington, D.C.Wendland-Cook Professorship Inaugural Lecture: SMU’s Perkins School of Theology commemorates the establishment of the Wendland-Cook Professorship in Constructive Theology with a lecture by the first faculty member to hold that position. Joerg Rieger will discuss “Speaking Truth to Power – With a Twist: Re-envisioning the Task of Theology and the Academy” at 5 p.m. Oct. 8 in the Great Hall of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall, followed by a reception in the Kirby Hall Parlor. Free and open to the public.

    “Holocaust Legacies” lecture: Author and University of Pittsburgh Professor of Art History Kirk Savage (Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape) will explore the achievements and pitfalls of the victim monument, which has come to rival the hero monuments of old. “Beyond the Victim Monument” begins at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 8 in Dallas’ Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. Co-sponsored by the Division of Art History in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, the Dallas Holocaust Museum and The Sixth Floor Museum. Free and open to the public; tickets required. For more information, call 214-768-2698; for tickets, call 214-768-2787. (Right, the Titanic Memorial on Washington, D.C.’s southwest waterfront, originally erected in 1931.)

    'The Blood of Jesus' theatrical posterScreening a classic: Friends of the SMU Libraries/Colophon and the Hamon Arts Library present a free screening of Spencer Williams’ 1941 classic, The Blood of Jesus, Oct. 8 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater. Made specifically for African-American audiences in segregated movie theaters, the film was placed in the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1991. The event begins with a reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by the screening at 7 p.m. and a panel discussion moderated by SMU Professor of Cinema-TV Rick Worland at 8 p.m. Arrive early – seating is first-come, first-served and not guaranteed. For more information, call 214-768-3225 or visit smu.edu/friends.

    Clubhouse Lunch: The SMU Faculty Club hosts a Clubhouse Lunch with Hector Rivera, director of the Center for Child and Community Development in the University’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, at noon Oct. 14 in the Faculty Club. Rivera will speak on “Integrating English Language Learners Into Our Schools – What Do We Need to Know?” Lunch is $5; attendees are welcome to bring their own.

    October 6, 2009|Calendar Highlights|

    Courtroom-classroom clash revisited in ‘Intelligent Design on Trial’

    'Judgment Day' bannerA landmark federal court decision banning the teaching of creationism, and the NOVA film documentary that recounts the case, will be the focus of a series of events at SMU Sept. 24-25.

    In 2005, federal Judge John E. Jones III banned the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district from teaching “intelligent design” in the classroom, ruling that the course of study had been introduced by the local school board for religious reasons and did not constitute science.

    But the case was far from the final word. Many Americans still question evolution and believe that an alternative should be taught in public schools. In Texas, controversy over the teaching of science continues to roil meetings of the State Board of Education.

    Several of the major players in the Dover trial, as well as professionals who later helped analyze its impact through the media, will be featured at SMU through an assortment of lectures, film screenings and panel discussions.

    Paula ApsellThe programs begin Sept. 24 with a 10 a.m. reception and 10:30 a.m. lecture at DeGolyer Library, featuring Paula Apsell (right), senior executive producer, and Melanie Wallace, senior series producer of NOVA’s documentary, “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.” Those planning to attend should RSVP to 214-768-3225 or Cynthia Ruppi.

    The documentary, “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial,” will be screened at 4 p.m. Sept. 24 in O’Donnell Hall, Owen Arts Center. A panel discussion on legal, ethical and journalistic issues surrounding the making of the film will follow from 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. in Caruth Auditorium, Owen Arts Center. Panelists will include Judge Jones, documentary producers Apsell and Wallace, plaintiff’s council Eric Rothschild and Lauri Lebo, author of The Devil in Dover.

    On Sept. 25, from 10-11:30 a.m., First Amendment issues will get closer scrutiny in a panel discussion at SMU’s Dedman School of Law. Jones, Rothschild (now in private practice), Liberty Legal Institute attorney Hiram Sasser and Dedman School of Law Professor Lackland Bloom will trade ideas and opinions in Karcher Auditorium, Storey Hall.

    The series concludes Sept. 25 with reporter and author Lebo’s lecture from 2-3 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum. Lebo will speak on “From Dover to Texas: Reporting on Extremist Views in a Fair and Balanced World” and sign copies of her book, The Devil in Dover.

    NOVA Senior Executive Producer Apsell, who received an honorary degree from SMU in 2008, says the documentary underscores not only a historic court case, but also a critical science lesson.

    “What happens when half of the population doesn’t accept one of the most fundamental underpinnings of the sciences?” Apsell asks. “Evolution is the absolute bedrock of the biological sciences. It’s essential to medical science, agriculture, and biotechnology. And it’s critical to understanding the natural world around us.”

    The events are part of SMU’s yearlong “Darwin’s Evolving Legacy” series. All are free and open to the public.

    Read more from SMU News
    Visit the “Darwin’s Evolving Legacy” website
    Learn more about the documentary at the NOVA homepage
    Review Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District at Wikipedia

    September 22, 2009|Calendar Highlights, News|
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