Gems from the Tyler, Texas Black Film Collection

The Tyler, Texas Black Film Collection is one of the signature collections of the G. William Jones Film & Video Collection. This collection of race films from the 1930s and 1940s were discovered in an East Texas warehouse in 1983 on miraculously well-preserved nitrate stock and transferred to safety film in 1985. With the advent of digital technology, this important collection of film history has been digitally restored and made available in the SMU Digital Collections. We’ve written before about the travels of the collection’s most well-know title, The Blood of Jesus. Here are three lesser-known gems of the collection with clips.

Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. (1946)

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Black and White / 35mm / 60 minutes / Spencer Williams, Director

Synopsis: Dancer Gertie La Rue is the toast of Harlem, but she’s been two-timing her beau, Al, the man who put her in the spotlight. Fearing Al’s retribution, Gertie drags her entire show troupe out to the remote island of Rinidad, where she hopes to lay low for a while. She’s also managed to make her self-imposed exile a lucrative one, setting up a residency at Diamond Joe’s nightclub. While Gertie drinks, cusses, and flirts her way across Rinidad, dark clouds are gathering overhead; local revivalist Jonathan Christian is on a moral crusade to have her deported.

The Vanities [Alternate Title: Harlem Hot Shots] (1946)

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Black and White / 35mm / 10 minutes / William Alexander, Director

Cast: Charles Keith, Joesfred Portree, “Little Audrey” Armstrong

Synopsis: Charles Keith is the Master of Ceremonies of a night club act. He first impersonates Bette Davis, and this longish Bette Davis ‘rap’ gradually convinces us that we are not only hearing, but also seeing, the real Bette. Joesfred Portree sings “I love My Daddy But I’ve Got To Have My Fun” and “Little Audrey” Armstrong dances to “On The Solid Side”.

Boogie-Woogie Blues (1948)

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Black and White / 35mm / 10 minutes / William Alexander, Producer

Synopsis: A 10-minute performance film featuring famous songstress Hadda Brooks, accompanying herself on the piano. Songs include “Don’t Take Your Love From Me”, and “Don’t You Think I Ought To Know”.

Watch the entire collection in the SMU Digital Collections.

Read more about the collection in Black Cinema Treasures: Lost and Found by Bill Jones, the founder of Hamon’s G. William Jones Film & Video Collection.

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