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With a Crooked Stick--The Films of Oscar Micheaux - J. Ronald Green

With a Crooked Stick--The Films of Oscar Micheaux

Paperback

Published: 18th March 2004
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With a "crooked stick," filmmaker Oscar Micheaux (1884--1951) sought to hit a "straight lick" by stressing the strategic importance of class mobility, or "uplift," for African Americans. A theme in all of his more than 40 feature-length, black-produced, black-directed, black-cast, and black-audience films, uplift would allow for the better things in life: fast cars and fancy clothes, freedom of belief, financial security, and an unencumbered intellectual life. Although racism was an impediment to uplift for Micheaux and other African Americans, race as a category was of a secondary order for him in the larger game of class. In With a Crooked Stick, J. Ronald Green pursues this seeming contradiction in a detailed analysis of each of Micheaux's 15 surviving films. He presents critical commentary on each film's plot and action and its contribution to the overall theme of uplift. Readers will also find this an invaluable guide to the preoccupations and features of Micheaux's remarkable career and the insight it provides into the African American experience of the 1920s and 30s.

"Following up on his outstanding Straight Lick: The Cinema of Oscar Micheaux (CH, Mar'01), Green focuses on 15 of the more than 40 all-black films the African American novelist-director made between 1919 and 1948. The biographical chapter sharply outlines the US racial context, Micheaux's challenges as a prototypical independent, and autobiographical elements in his films and seven novels. Between his treatment of the silents and the sound films, the author pauses to examine Hollywood's black-cast musicals, whose theme of spiritual uplift Micheaux always subordinated to class advancement. Anticipating the poststructuralists, Micheaux's brand of musical quotation .. directly serves his principal rhetorical concern: the treating of the disease of ethnic caricature. Despite a somewhat formulaic analysis of the films, Green clearly establishes Micheaux's unrelenting critique of white supremacism and black complicity, his strong and original style, and his promotion of moderation, independence, and ethical integrity for class uplift. Green argues that even the antithetical successes of Van Peebles/Burnett and Cosby/Winfrey/Singleton/Lee have not achieved an institutionalized cinema of the middle classes, a cinema worthy of Micheaux's prior accomplishment. Green appends an insightful study of African American spirituals to this learned, passionate, and persuasive study of a fascinating artist. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers."--M. Yacowar, University of Calgary , Choice , October 2004

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Biographical Backstoryp. 13
Within Our Gates (1920; second film)p. 39
Symbol of the Unconquered (1920; fourth film)p. 53
Body and Soul (1925; fourteenth film)p. 66
The Sound Era: Signifying with Musicp. 97
The Exile (1931; twenty-fourth film)p. 112
The Darktown Revue (1931; twenty-fifth film)p. 136
Veiled Aristocrats (1932; twenty-sixth film)p. 140
Ten Minutes to Live (1932; twenty-seventh film)p. 148
The Girl from Chicago (1932; twenty-eighth film)p. 165
Murder in Harlem (1935; thirty-first film)p. 177
Underworld (1937; thirty-third film)p. 191
God's Step Children (1938; thirty-fourth film)p. 205
Birthright (1938-1939; thirty-fifth film)p. 232
Swing! (1938; thirty-sixth film)p. 248
Lying Lips (1939; thirty-seventh film)p. 260
The Notorious Elinor Lee (1940; thirty-eighth film)p. 267
Conclusionp. 275
A Short Filmographyp. 283
Jubilee: African-American Spiritualsp. 285
Sources for Obtaining Micheaux's Filmsp. 289
Comment on Selected Web Sitesp. 291
Bibliographyp. 293
Indexp. 301
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780253217158
ISBN-10: 0253217156
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 328
Published: 18th March 2004
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.9 x 15.2  x 2.1
Weight (kg): 0.56