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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Overlooked African American Performances on TCM

Film historian Donald Bogle, an author, lecturer and noted expert of cinema, will sit down with TCM primetime host Ben Mankiewicz to discuss films with performances by African Americans that have been historically overlooked by general audiences. Bogle brings to the conversation a lifetime of study, teaching and research on the image of blacks in the media. His appearances on television and film festivals are vast and always draw a large audience. Don't miss this opportunity to enjoy what is sure to be a highly informative and enlightening conversation between two of the most enthusiastic cinema fans today.

Although, introductions by the hosts will only be made for the primetime screenings, the first days' schedule includes a full daytime slate of films featuring the performances of black actors. Some of these films will be very familiar to you (Carmen Jones, A Patch of Blue), and others are likely to be fresh titles to the uninitiated (Bright Road).

There are also some little known titles you may recognize but have never given a chance. Well, here's your chance. Personally, I highly recommend Intruder In The Dust. The title is misleading, as it sounds like it should be a noir or something else equally adventurous. In a way it is, but not how you might think. Set in 1940s Mississippi, a teenage boy and an elderly woman work against the opinions of their local community to prevent a miscarriage of justice and clear a black man of a murder charge. Clarence Brown does an exceptional job directing Claude Jarman, Jr.'s portrayal of a teen who outgrows his learned bigoted behavior through his interaction with an older black man (Juano Hernandez). There's nothing sappy about this film, but rather a straight forward drama about prejudice and mob thinking. Nor is the white boy the savior of the black man, but the other way around. Hernandez gives the performance of his life as a no-nonsense man who sees things as they are and wastes no time feigning politeness. When all is said and done, we are not left with some warm understanding between the two main characters, that would be trite. But there is a bond, and a moment of growth for a teen and the town in which he lives.

Tune in Monday evening, January 20 for Nothing But A Man with Ivan Dixon, Edge of the City with John Cassavetes and Sidney Poitier, The Landlord with Louis Gossett, Jr., The Tall Target with Ruby Dee, and, of course, A Raisin in the Sun with Poitier and Claudia McNeil. On Wednesday, January 23 you'll be treated to the original Imitation of Life with Louise Beavers and Fredi Washington), the sound adaptation of Body and Soul with Canada Lee, The Member of the Wedding with Ethel Waters, the previously mentioned Intruder in the Dust, and two films directed by Oscar Micheaux, Within Our Gates and The Symbol of the Unconquered.


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