Straight Lick: The Cinema of Oscar Micheaux

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Indiana University Press, Sep 22, 2000 - Performing Arts - 320 pages

A critical examination of the films of Oscar Micheaux.

One of the most original and successful filmmakers of all time, Oscar Micheaux was born into a rural, working-class, African-American family in mid-America in 1884, yet he created an impressive legacy in commercial cinema. Between 1913 and 1951 he wrote, directed, and distributed some forty-three feature films, more than any other black filmmaker in the world, a record of production that is likely to stand for a very long time.

Micheaux's work was founded upon the concern for class mobility, or uplift, for African Americans. Uplift provided the context for Micheaux's extensive commentary on racist cinema, such as D. W. Griffith's 1915 blockbuster, The Birth of a Nation, which Micheaux "answered" with his very early films Within Our Gates and Symbol of the Unconquered. Uplift explains Micheaux's use of "negative images" of African Americans as well as his multi-pronged campaign against stereotype and caricature in American culture. His campaign produced a body of films saturated with a nuanced intertexual "signifying," boldly and repeatedly treating controversial topics that face white censorship time after time, topics ranging from white mob and Klan violence to light-skin-color fetish to white financing of black cultural productions.


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Straight lick: the cinema of Oscar Micheaux

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Although Bowser (codirector of the documentary Midnight Ramble: Oscar Micheaux and the Story of Race Movies) and Spence (media studies, Sacred Heart Univ.) focus solely on the 20 silent films Micheaux ... Read full review


2 Micheauxs Class Position
3 Twoness and Micheauxs Style
4 Negative Images
5 The Middle Path
6 MiddleClass Cinema
7 White Financing
8 Stereotype and Caricature
9 Revising Caricature
12 Passing and Film Style
13 Racial Loyalty
14 Micheaux and Cinema Today
Appendix 1 On Class and the Classical
Appendix 2 Filmography
Appendix 3 Selections from the Black Press

10 Interrogating Caricature as Entertainment
11 Interrogating False Uplift

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Page 20 - IN THE LIGHT of the world's attitude toward woman and her duties, the nature of Carrie's mental state deserves consideration. Actions such as hers are measured by an arbitrary scale. Society possesses a conventional standard whereby it judges all things. All men should be good, all women virtuous. Wherefore, villain, hast thou failed?
Page 20 - ... involved than we as yet perceive. Answer first why the heart thrills, explain wherefore some plaintive note goes wandering about the world undying, make clear the rose's subtle alchemy, evolving its ruddy lamp in light and rain. In the essence of these facts lie the first principles of morals. "Oh," thought Drouet, "how delicious is my conquest.

About the author (2000)

J. Ronald Green is Associate Professor of Film Studies in the Department of History of Art at Ohio State University. His writings on Micheaux and other topics have appeared in journals such as Film Quarterly, Griffithiana, Black Film Review, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Journal of Film and Video, Cinema Journal, Afterimage, and Aperture, and in various anthologies, including Diawara's Black American Cinema.

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