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Black Cast Films (1890-2010)

Black Cast Films


From the 1920's thru the mid-1950's many films were made with all African American casts for distribution to black cinemas and all-black audiences. These inexpensive but heartfelt gems spanned all genres -- musical, dramatic, western, comedy and even horror -- and give a fascinating peek inside a culture and world that has been largely overlooked by history. 

~~~~~ Black Cast Films Intro ~~~~~

The Blood of Jesus (1941) -- 57 minutes

Spencer Williams film about an atheist who accidentally shoots his Baptist wife and must fight the Devil for her soul.

Boogie-Woogie Dream (1944) -- 13 minutes

Musical short

Boarding House Blues (1948) -- 86 minutes, Moms Mabley and Dusty Fletcher

Tenants of a Harlem boarding house put on a show to save their home.

Boy! What a Girl! (1947) -- 70 minutes, Tim Moore, Elwood Smith, Duke Williams

A couple of theatrical producers try to get backing for their musical show.

The Bronze Buckaroo (1939) -- 58 minutes

Herb Jeffries sings and shoots in a black cast western. 

Bubbling Over (1934) – 20 minutes

Musical short

The Devil's Daughter (1939) -- 59 minutes

Nina Mae McKinney runs afoul of voodoo in Jamaica. 

Son of Ingagi (1940) -- 61 minutes

Spencer Williams in a haunted house horror film.

Dirty Gertie from Harlem (1946) -- 65 minutes, Francine Everett, Don Wilson

A sexy, enticing dancer from Harlem makes things happen in a sleepy Caribbean island resort.

Sepia Cinderella (1947) – 61 minutes, Billy Daniels and Sheila Guyse

The Duke Is Tops (Bronze Venus) (1938) -- 63 minutes

Lena Horne plays a night club singer who gets a chance at Broadway.

Gang War (1940) -- 63 minutes

Ralph Cooper in a gangster film set in Harlem.

Go Down, Death! (1940) -- 56 minutes, Myra D. Hemmings, Samuel H. James

A bar owner attempts to discredit the new preacher with whom he is feuding by framing him with a photograph showing him drinking with women with bad reputations.

Amos 'n Andy “Lion Tamer” cartoon and Inki cartoon.

Hi-De-Ho (1947) -- 64 minutes

Cab Calloway is a band leader pressured to work in a gangster bar. With a collection of musical Soundies.

Jivin' in Be-Bop (1946) -- 58 minutes

Dizzie Gillespie and his musical friends have a ball. 

Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land and Uncle Tom and Little Eva

Juke Joint (1947) -- 58 minutes

Spencer Williams is a con man involved in small town beauty contest.

Amos 'n Andy “Rassling Match” and “Jasper in a Jam” cartoon

Moon Over Harlem (1939) -- 68 minutes

A girl’s mother marries a philanderer, who then pursues the daughter. When caught, the mother throws her out into the world of Broadway shows.

Murder on Lenox Avenue (1941) -- 65 minutes, Mamie Smith, Alec Lovejoy

Dramatic events in a Harlem apartment house. Pa Wilkins is chosen by the Better Business League to replace their ousted, crooked leader Marshall.

Murder with Music (1941) -- 57 minutes

Night club singer Nelle Hill has many suitors -- an escaped convict, a piano player and a newspaper man. One is killed.

Paradise in Harlem (1939) -- 60 minutes

Crime drama centered on a club singer who aspires to be a great dramatic actor.

Reet-Petite and Gone (1947) -- 67 minutes

Bandleader Louis Jordan stars in a dual role.

Rock N' Roll Revue and Rhythm and Blues Revue (1955)

Two one-hour compilations of black performers on stage: Dinah Washington, Mantan Moreland, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughn, Lionel Hampton, Herb Jeffries, etc.

Showtime at the Apollo (1954) -- 80 minutes

Musical variety show filmed in New York’s Apollo Theater with many stars: Nipsey Russell, Duke Ellington, the Clovers, Herb Jeffries, Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, etc.

Spirit of Youth (1938) -- 66 minutes

Joe Louis stars in story about the rise of a boxer.


Showcasing Black Actors- The following films feature famous black actors

Check and Double Check (1930) -- 80 minutes

Duke Ellington and radio’s Amos 'n Andy (white actors Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll in black face) in a feature comedy.

Emperor Jones (1933) -- 72 minutes

Paul Robeson plays a porter who escapes from a chain gang to become king of a Caribbean island. Based on the play by Eugene O’Neil.

The Jackie Robinson Story (1950) -- 76 minutes

Jackie Robinson stars in his own biography as the first black baseball player in the majors.

Judge Priest (1934) -- 80 minutes

Will Rogers’ comedy is a showcase for black comedian Stepin Fetchit.

The Joe Louis Story (1953) -- 88 minutes

Coley Wallace in a biography of the Heavyweight champ.

Topper Returns (1941)

Rochester is featured in this mystery comedy about Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) helping ghost Joan Blondell find her own killer.

Mantan Moreland Co-Starring Features:

Freckles Comes Home (1942) -- Gale Storm, Johnny Downs, Mantan Moreland

Two pals encounter an obstinate hick town sheriff who accuses them of murder.

Law of the Jungle (1942) -- Arline Judge, Mantan Moreland

Nazis hide among jungle natives in this classic Monogram thriller.

The Gang's All Here (1941)

Frankie Darro, Mantan Moreland comedy / crime B-picture.

Irish Luck (1939) -- Frankie Darro, Mantan Moreland

An amateur detective teams up with a frightened bell-hop to solve a series of hotel murders.

King of the Zombies (1941) -- 67 minutes, Dick Purcell, Joan Woodbury, Mantan Moreland

Fiendish mad doctor creates Zombies for the Axis. Mantan Moreland turns this chiller into a hilariously funny film.

Revolt of the Zombies (1936)

Let's Go Collegiate (1941)

Frankie Darro and Mantan Moreland in a college musical.  With Up In the Air (1940) Frankie Darro, Mantan Moreland in mystery-comedy set in radio station.

The Black Brigade (1970)

All-black World War-II brigade with Stephen Boyd, Robert Hooks, Paul Stewart, Richard Pryor, Susan Oliver, Glynn E. Turman, Billy Dee Williams.

Black Fist (1975) -- aka "Bogarde", Richard Lawson

To make money, a Los Angeles street-fighter goes to work for gangsters.

The Black Gestapo (1975) – Rod Perry

General Ahmed has started an inner-city People's Army to try and relieve the misery of the citizens of Watts.

The Black Godfather (1974) -- Rod Perry

A neighborhood hoodlum fights his way to the top of a drug-selling gang.

The Black Six (1974)

Action film with Carl Eller, Mercury Morris, Willie Lanier, Big Ben Davidson, Gene Washington, "Mean" Joe Green.

The Gatling Gun (1973) – 93 minutes

Western with Guy Stockwell, Woody Strode

Get Christie Love (1974) -- Teresa Graves

A black and sassy undercover operative uses street smarts, revealing outfits and Kung-Fu to penetrate the thriving drug dealing culture in Los Angeles.

The Mark of the Hawk (1957) -- Sidney Poitier

The man called Obam struggles with the increasingly hostile forces facing each other in a colonial African country.

The Quiet One (1948)

Celebrated documentary. A quiet, neglected Harlem boy's wall of silence masks a drift into juvenile delinquency.

The River Niger (1976) -- Cicely Tyson, James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett Jr.

An intimate look at life in the ghetto: Johnny Williams is a house painter who moonlights as a poet, struggling to financially and emotionally support his cancer-ridden wife Mattie.

To All My Friends on Shore (1972) -- TV movie, Bill Cosby

An airport redcap works hard to get his family out of the ghetto, only to discover that his son has sickle-cell anemia.


Musical Shorts

St. Louis Blues starring Bessie Smith (1929) – 15 minutes

Symphony in Black starring Duke Ellington (1935) – 10 minutes

Cab Calloway’s Jitterbug Party (1935) – 7 minutes

Murder in Swingtime (1937) – 10 minutes, Les Hite and His Orchestra with June Richmond

Mr. Adam's Bomb (1929) – 20 minutes, Eddie Green

Open the Door Richard (1945) – 10 minutes, Dusty Fletcher and Stepin Fetchit

Ain’t Misbehaving starring Fats Waller

Shine starring Louis Armstrong

Paper Doll with The Mills Brothers and Dorothy Dandridge

Black and Tan Fantasy (1924) – 19 minutes, Duke Ellington

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