Rare films produced strictly for black audiences from the 1920s through the 1940s and recently saved from the trash bin drew such a crowd at Southern Methodist University that officials Monday announced a second showing.
An estimated 500 people each paid $5 Sunday to see such classics as "Murder in Harlem," starring comedian Stepin Fetchit, and "Girl in Room 20." About 150 others were turned away because of lack of space.
The second showing, scheduled Feb. 16, will include "Juke Joint," filmed in Dallas and directed by Spencer Williams, a writer, director, producer and actor best known from TV's "Amos 'n' Andy" show.
G. William Jones, director of the Southwest Film Video Archives at SMU, said he discovered 100 films--30 of them made by black producers, directors and screenwriters with black casts--in 1983 when a Tyler, Tex., warehouse manager asked him to look at some items he planned to throw away.
"Because these films were made originally just for black audiences in the '30s and '40s, and whites were never meant to see them, the film makers didn't have to bow or kowtow to white sensibilities and prejudices," Jones said. "They give us a better sense of the black self-consciousness of that time than we can get from anywhere else; except the few black novels that happened to get published at that time."
Jones added: "If black kids got to see films like 'Bronze Buckaroo' or 'Harlem on the Prairie'--a couple of black Westerns--they got to identify with a black screen hero, rather than a white one like Tom Mix or Gene Autry. That must have meant a lot to them."