With a Crooked Stick--The Films of Oscar Micheaux

With a Crooked Stick--The Films of Oscar Micheaux

J. Ronald Green
Distribution: World
Publication date: 03/18/2004
Format: Paperback 98 b&w photos, 1 bibliog., 1 index
ISBN: 978-0-253-21715-8
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Choice Outstanding Academic Title (2005)

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.

Author Bio

J. Ronald Green is Professor of Film Studies in the Department of History of Art at Ohio State University. He is author of Straight Lick: The Cinema of Oscar Micheaux (IUP, 2000).

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Table of Contents

Chapter One: Biographical Backstory
Chapter Two: Within Our Gates (1920)
Chapter Three: Symbol of the Unconquered (1920)
Chapter Four: Body and Soul (1925)
Chapter Five: The Sound Era—Signifying with Music
Chapter Six: The Exile (1931)
Chapter Seven: The Darktown Revue (1931)
Chapter Eight: Veiled Aristocrats (1932)
Chapter Nine: Ten Minutes to Live (1932)
Chapter Ten: The Girl from Chicago (1932)
Chapter Eleven: Murder in Harlem (1935)
Chapter Twelve: Underworld (1937)
Chapter Thirteen: God's Step Children (1938)
Chapter Fourteen: Birthright (1938-39)
Chapter Fifteen: Swing! (1938)
Chapter Sixteen: Lying Lips (1939)
Chapter Seventeen: The Notorious Elinor Lee (1940)
Chapter Eighteen: Conclusion
Appendix One: Short Filmography
Appendix Two: Jubilee—African-American Spirituals
Appendix Three: Sources for Obtaining Micheaux's Films
Appendix Four: Review of Selected Websites
Bibliography of Citations