Oscar Micheaux’s “Midnight Ramble”

 

YEAR FILM MADE:  first aired on 26 October 1994 as episode 4 of season 7 of the PBS series,  DVD Release Date: July 21, 2010

 LENGTH OF FILM :56minutes   

PRODUCERS: Bester Cram, Pamela Thomas

DIRECTOR: Bestor Cram, Pamela A. Thomas

Is the film         X BLACK & WHITE    

FILM TYPE

 

X Documentary    x Historical           x Race Film

 

(1)   WHO WAS OSCAR MICHEAUX?  (2) WHY IS HE SIGNIFICANT?

 

1)      Oscar Devereaux Micheaux (January 2, 1884 – March 25, 1951) was an American author, film director and independent producer of more than 44 films. Although the short-lived Lincoln Motion Picture Company produced some films, he is regarded as the first major African-American feature filmmaker, the most successful African-American filmmaker of the first half of the twentieth century. The most prominent producer of race films. He produced both silent films and “talkies” after the industry changed to incorporate speaking actors.

2)      He is significant because he was the first African American film producer. Oscar Micheaux is the most prolific African-American filmmaker to this date. Micheaux stirred controversy in his time as he confronted issues such as lynching, miscegenation, peonage and white supremacy, passing, and corruption among black clergymen. He emphasized the importance of education and the rights of citizenship for racial uplift, to advance race progress, to awaken black consciousness, and to correct negative behavior within black communities. He still is an icon to all African American filmmakers to this day and many of them take him as an example for their ideas and for their inspiration and motivation.

WHY IS THIS FILM CALLED “MIDNIGHT RAMBLE”?

 

A midnight ramble was a segregation-era midnight showing of films for an African American audience, often in a cinema where, under Jim Crow laws they would never have been admitted at other times.The films shown were often from among the over 500 films that were made between 1910 and 1950 in the United States with Black producers, writers, actors and directors.

 

LIST 3 REASONS WHY THIS FILM SIGNIFICANT TO THE HISTORY OF BLACK CINEMA?

  1.   It is significant because he was the first black person to make feature length movies
  2.   He brought up themes no one else would talk about, like interracial relationships
  3.  With his movies being made, films with black cast became more popular and so the foundation for today’s black cast movies. Black people were shown in a bad light before and Micheaux portrayed them in a better light, he showed them as people with dignity, which is important for the history of black cinema

 

 

WHAT MAJOR AFRICAN AMERICAN ATHLETE AND FILM STAR  0F THE  1930s  BEGAN  HIS CAREER IN AN OSCAR MICHEAUX FILM?

Paul Robeson, in “Body & Soul” in 1925. Paul Leroy Robeson (April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976) was an American concert singer (bass), recording artist, actor, athlete, and scholar who was an advocate for the Civil Rights Movement in the first half of the 20th century. He gained international attention for his work in the arts and he merged his artistic career with political activism to speak out for the equality of minorities and the rights of workers throughout the world

 

WHY DID OSCAR MICHEAUX’S FILMS EMPHASIZE SKIN COLOR (CASTE SYSTEM) WITHIN THE BLACK RACE?

Within the film, Micheaux depicts educated and professional people as light-skinned, symbolizing the elite status of the generally mixed-race people who were free before the Civil War, and poor people as dark-skinned. However, these light-skinned people also represent the villains of the story. This film takes place within the Jim Crow era, and contrasts rural and urban experiences for the African-American populations. In creating a contemporary setting, Micheaux explores the suffering of African Americans in the present day, without explaining how the situation arose in history. Until this day, I feel like this is still a typical stereotype. Even today in movies, light skinned people are still shown as smarter as or better than darker people. It is really impressive that this is going on for so long and people already realized this so many years ago.

HOW MANY FILMS DID MICHEAUX CREATE?

 He produced over 40 films, which drew audiences throughout the US as well as internationally. He also wrote novels, which he sold. He wrote seven novels. In 1913, 1000 copies of his first book, The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Homesteader was printed. He published the book anonymously, for unknown reasons. It was based on his experiences as a homesteader and the failure of his first marriage, and was essentially an autobiography about his early life. Although character names have been changed, the protagonist is named Oscar Devereaux. His theme was about African Americans’ realizing their potential and succeeding in areas in which they may have been previously denied access.

 

  1. I did not know that there were so many race riots throughout the US and I unfortunately haven’t heard of the biggest one in Oklahoma

  2. I also didn’t know that Micheaux’s movie “Within our gates” was the answer to the movie” birth of a nation”. In Germany you unfortunately don’t learn about these things in history class.

 I did like the movie a lot.

The Narration by James Avery is awesome. I only remember James Avery for playing Will Smith’s father in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which I found out while doing the research for this paper, and I thought that is awesome.

Midnight Ramble shows the social,economic, and political issues that shaped the independent movie movement for African-Americans. The interviews of those who admired Micheaux’s work as well as those who were in Micheaux’s presence during his productions speak about the essential things which kept Micheaux’s world of movie making alive. I didn’t know anything about Oscar Micheaux and I am very glad I saw the movie and learned more about black movie history.

Advertisements

~ by Colorful Soul on 03/25/2012.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: