HALLELUJAH! (1929) B/W 100m dir: King Vidor
w/Daniel Haynes, Nina Mae McKinney, William E. Fountaine, Harry Gray, Fannie Belle DeKnight, Everett McGarrity, Victoria Spivey, Milton Dickerson, Robert Crouch, Walter Tait
From The Movie Guide: "This was the first all-black feature film and one of the boldest pictures ever made, especially since MGM knew the film would not get much of a release in the deep South. King Vidor was a man vitally interested in social issues (witness his work on THE BIG PARADE and THE CROWD), and he wanted to show the rest of America what black people were going through. Daniel Haynes plays Zeke, an innocent young man who is very close to his mother (Fannie Belle DeKnight), and to his brother, Spunk (Everett McGarrity), whom he accidentally kills. Zeke turns to religion to ease his grief.
"With a cast that included many amateurs (Harry Gray [as the Parson] had been a janitor at a Harlem newspaper, and Nina Mae McKinney, the female lead, had never been in front of a camera), Vidor elicited performances from the group as good as any you might see in a seasoned troupe. Even today, more than half a century later, this film is not dated. Shot on location in Tennessee, HALLELUJAH! is redolent with authenticity. The treatment of some scenes tends towards the melodramatic, notably the revival meetings, a wake, and various scenes on the plantation; but the film is filled with humanity and insight into black experience at the time. Irving Thalberg, the young chief of production at MGM, known and remembered as a man of integrity, gave Vidor the green light to make HALLELUJAH! This was the director's first talkie, but the film was shot as a silent, with the sound added in post-production."
Vidor was nominated for an Oscar as Best Director.