Oscar Micheaux

Oscar Micheaux: African American Author & Filmmaker

Oscar Micheaux

Oscar Devereaux Micheaux (January 2, 1884 – March 25, 1951) was an African American author, film director and independent producer of more than 44 films.

Although the short-lived Lincoln Motion Picture Company was the first movie company owned and controlled by black filmmakers, Micheaux is regarded as the first major African American feature filmmaker, a prominent producer of race film, and has been described as “the most successful African American filmmaker of the first half of the 20th century.” He produced both silent films and sound films when the industry changed to incorporate speaking actors.

Micheaux’s films were made during a time of great change in the African American community. His films featured contemporary black life. He dealt with racial relationships between blacks and whites, and the challenges for blacks when trying to achieve success in the larger society. His films were used to oppose and discuss the racial injustice that African Americans received. Topics such as lynching, job discrimination, rape, mob violence, and economic exploitation were depicted in his films. These films also reflect his ideologies and autobiographical experiences. The journalist Richard Gehr said, “Micheaux appears to have only one story to tell, his own, and he tells it repeatedly.”

Micheaux sought to create films that would counter white portrayals of African Americans, which tended to emphasize inferior stereotypes. He created complex characters of different classes. His films questioned the value system of both African American and white communities as well as caused problems with the press and state censors.

In addition to writing and directing his own films, Micheaux also adapted the works of different writers for his silent pictures. Many of his films were open, blunt and thought-provoking regarding certain racial issues of that time. He once commented: “It is only by presenting those portions of the race portrayed in my pictures, in the light and background of their true state, that we can raise our people to greater heights.”

Micheaux died on March 25, 1951, in Charlotte, North Carolina, of heart failure. He is buried in Great Bend Cemetery in Great Bend, Kansas, the home of his youth. His gravestone reads: “A man ahead of his time.”

Oscar Micheaux Tribute from The Film Detective on Vimeo.

 

Filmography

  • The Homesteader (1919)
  • Within Our Gates (1920)
  • The Brute (1920)
  • The Symbol of the Unconquered (1920)
  • The Gunsaulus Mystery (1921)
  • The Dungeon (1922)
  • The Hypocrite (1922)
  • Uncle Jasper’s Will (1922)
  • The Virgin of the Seminole (1922)
  • Deceit (1923)
  • Birthright (1924)
  • A Son of Satan (1924)
  • Body and Soul (1925)
  • Marcus Garland (1925)
  • The Conjure Woman (1926), adapted from novel by Charles W. Chesnutt
  • The Devil’s Disciple (1926)
  • The Spider’s Web (1926)
  • The Millionaire (1927)
  • The Broken Violin (1928)
  • The House Behind the Cedars (1927), adapted from novel by Charles W. Chesnutt
  • Thirty Years Later (1928)
  • When Men Betray (1929)
  • The Wages of Sin (1929)
  • Easy Street (1930)
  • A Daughter of the Congo (1930)
  • Darktown Revue (1931)
  • The Exile (1931)
  • Veiled Aristocrats (1932)
  • Ten Minutes to Live (1932)
  • Black Magic (1932)
  • The Girl from Chicago (1932)
  • Ten Minutes to Kill (1933)
  • Phantom of Kenwood (1933)
  • Harlem After Midnight (1934)
  • Murder in Harlem (1935)
  • Temptation (1936)
  • Underworld (1937)
  • God’s Step Children (1938)
  • Swing! (1938)
  • Lying Lips (1939)
  • Birthright (1939)
  • The Notorious Elinor Lee (1940)
  • The Betrayal (1948)

 

 

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