"The Scar of Shame" is a rare surviving silent example of what the movie industry once labeled "race movies," films with African American casts intended for African American audiences.
"The Scar of Shame" was filmed in Philadelphia by a mixed-race production team with a black producer and a white director and writer.
The AFI Catalog only lists four feature films produced in the 1921-1930 period credited to Colored Players Film Corp.
One of the earliest producers of " race movies " were the brothers Noble and George Johnson who formed the Lincoln Motion Picture Company, and the AFI catalog shows they only released one feature film between 1911-1920. By the end of the silent era there were approximately 150 independent companies producing "race films" in such diverse locations such as Jacksonville, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Chicago and New York.
Other film companies were Real Productions, the Unique Company, and the Norman Film Company. Some were black owned and some white controlled. The movies varied in style, technique and subject matter. Sometimes plodding, sometimes didactic, sometimes disjointed and often quite frank such as "The Scar of Shame" which shows the class and color caste system that existed in the black community.
The movies were shown at big-city ghetto houses in the North, at segregated theaters in the South, at black churches, schools, and social organizations.
"The Scar of Shame" was produced by the Colored Players
Film Corp., directed by Frank Peregini and released in 1927. The
cast consisted of Harry Henderson, Lucia Lynn Moses, Ann Kennedy,
Norman Johnstone, William E. Pettus, Pearl MacCormick, and Lawrence
The film is a drama. Louise is beaten by her drunken father, and Alvin, a proper music student, comes to her aid. They fall in love with each other and find few months of married happiness. Spike, a crony of Louise's father, lusts after Louise and makes plans to destroy her marriage. He sends Alvin a telegram (purportedly from his ailing mother) knowing that Alvin will return home. Louise wants to go with him, but Alvin is ashamed of her low birth and goes without her.
Deeply hurt, Louise agrees to run off with Spike. Alvin returns unexpectedly and accidently wounds Louise in a gun battle with Spike. Alvin is sent to jail, and Louise leaves with Spike becoming a singer in a cabaret. Alvin breaks out of jail and begins a new life as a piano teacher and falls in love with Alice Hathaway, one of his students. Alice's father is having an affair with Louise, and Alvin eventually meets up with her. She asks him to come back, but he refuses. She kills herself, and Alvin explains his past to the Hathaways, who forgive him.
The Lincoln Motion Picture Company, the first film company to be black owned and managed was formed in 1916 by actor Noble M. Johnson and his brother, George P., an Omaha mailman. By 1917, when the company incorporated with capital of $75,000, it had created its own exchange and had press agents working for it in all the black ghettos of many large American cities. They released many films, and during World War I they produced newsreels and westerns. After the war, the company produced films concerning racism and a documentary about the black 10th Calvary at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. In 1923, Lincoln which had always struggled to survive in an all white industry, ceased operations.
The director of the film, Frank Peregini, is listed in the AFI Catalogs as having only directed this feature film during the silent era. Harry Henderson and Lawrence Chenault are the only members of the cast who are listed in the AFI catalogs as appearing in any other feature films during the silent era.
Harry Henderson appeared in four feature films in a career that began in 1926, and Lawrence Chenault, who made his first feature film in 1920, appeared in a total of fifteen feature films during the silent era. They both appeared in "Ten Nights In A Barroom," produced by Colored Players of Philadelphia. It was released in 1926.
The American Film Industry by Anthony Slide
Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Blacks by Donald Bogle.
copyright 2002 by John DeBartolo. All rights reserved.
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