Fondren festival focuses on rare ‘race movies’

Tinsley Silcox

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: Feb. 21, 2008

    'Shinobi' promo posterFinal weekend for film festival: SMU’s 2008 Japanese Film Festival concludes Feb. 22-23 with screenings of Shinobi: Heart Under Blade (right) on Friday and Whisper of the Heart on Saturday. Both are in Japanese with English subtitles and begin at 6:30 p.m. in McCord Auditorium, Dallas Hall. Admission is free. Learn more about the films at the SMU Japan Club website.

    Jam session: Electro-acoustic jazz group JamPact, featuring Meadows Dean José Bowen and other faculty members, offers a free performance at 8 p.m. Feb. 23 in the Bob Hope Theatre, Owen Arts Center. For more information, contact the Division of Music, 8-2880.

    Extreme homebuilding: SMU students and community members will participate in a Habitat for Humanity Blitz Build 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 23-24.

    Gotta dance: The Meadows Division of Dance presents its Spring 2008 Brown Bag Dance Series noon-1 p.m Feb. 25-29 in the Owen Arts Center lobby. Bring your lunch for free performances of original ballet, modern and jazz works choreographed by students.

    Who’s that girl? The Gartner Honors Lecture Series continues Feb. 25 with “Iconicity and Advertising: Shanghai, Mukden, Tianjin and the Modern Girl Icon.” Tani E. Barlow, University of Washington, will discuss the central role of generic “modern girl” images in Chinese advertising of the 1920s and ’30s at 3:30 p.m. in the Texana Room, DeGolyer Library.

    New frontiers: SMU’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies hosts Stanford history professor Alberto Camarillo, author of Not White, Not Black: Mexicans and Racial/Ethnic Borderlands in American Cities. Camarillo will speak on “Cities of Color: The New Racial Frontier in California’s Minority-Majority Cities” Feb. 26 in DeGolyer Library. Reception at 6 p.m., lecture at 6:30 p.m. with a booksigning to follow.

    All that jazz: The Meadows Jazz Orchestra, led by Akira Sato, gives a free concert at 8 p.m. Feb. 26 in the Bob Hope Theatre, Owen Arts Center. For more information, call 8-2787 (8-ARTS).

    Join the Club: The SMU Faculty Club presents a Clubhouse Luncheon with Tinsley Silcox, Central University Libraries director of public services, who will discuss “Preserving the Heritage of African-American Filmmakers.” Lunch begins at noon Feb. 27 in the Faculty Club; cost is $5. RSVP by Feb. 26 to Dee Powell, 8-3012.

    February 21, 2008|Calendar Highlights|
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