By Patrick McGilligan
At a time when blacks lived severely restricted lives in Jim Crow America, the ambitious Micheaux managed, against incredible odds, to pump out up to four features a year between 1919 and 1940, finally making more than 40 all-black musicals, melodramas, detective stories, and ghost stories. Many of them embraced daring topics such as “passing” for white, interracial romance, nudity, sexual frankness, Klan violence and lynching.
Micheaux distributed them himself, toting the four or five prints he could afford to the nation’s far-flung black communities, which enthusiastically embraced the only films then being made that addressed their own lives without stereotyping or racial insult.
By today’s standards, his work might seem unpolished, but his contribution was so significant that he was posthumously presented with the DGA’s Golden Jubilee Special Award for Directorial Achievement in 1986 (along with Fellini and Kurosawa), in celebration of the Guild’s 50th anniversary.
Review written by John Patterson.