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With a Crooked Stick: The Films of Oscar Micheaux

With a Crooked Stick: The Films of Oscar Micheaux
Your Price: $29.95 CDN
Author: J. Ronald Green
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 314
Pub. Date: 2004
ISBN-10: 0253217156
ISBN-13: 9780253217158

About the Book:

A comprehensive guide to the surviving films of a remarkable African American filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux.

One of the most original and successful filmmakers of all time, Oscar Micheaux was born into a rural, working-class, African-American family in mid-America in 1884, yet he created an impressive legacy in commercial cinema. Between 1913 and 1951 he wrote, directed, and distributed some forty-three feature films, more than any other black filmmaker in the world, a record of production that is likely to stand for a very long time.

With a "crooked stick," filmmaker Oscar Micheaux sought to hit a "straight lick" by stressing the strategic importance of class mobility, or "uplift," for African Americans. A theme in all of his more than 40 feature-length, black-produced, black-directed, black-cast, and black-audience films, uplift would allow for the better things in life: fast cars and fancy clothes, freedom of belief, financial security, and an unencumbered intellectual life. Although racism was an impediment to uplift for Oscar Micheaux and other African Americans, race as a category was of a secondary order for him in the larger game of class. In With a Crooked Stick, author J. Ronald Green pursues this seeming contradiction in a detailed analysis of each of Oscar Micheaux's 15 surviving films. He presents critical commentary on each film's plot and action and its contribution to the overall theme of uplift. You will also find this an invaluable guide to the preoccupations and features of Micheaux's remarkable career and the insight it provides into the African American experience of the 1920s and 30s.

What people say:

"Following up on his outstanding Straight Lick: The Cinema of Oscar Micheaux , Green focuses on 15 of the more than 40 all-black films the African American novelist-director made between 1919 and 1948. The biographical chapter sharply outlines the US racial context, Micheaux's challenges as a prototypical independent, and autobiographical elements in his films and seven novels. Between his treatment of the silents and the sound films, the author pauses to examine Hollywood's black-cast musicals, whose theme of spiritual uplift Micheaux always subordinated to class advancement. Anticipating the poststructuralists, Micheaux's brand of musical quotation .. directly serves his principal rhetorical concern: the treating of the disease of ethnic caricature. Despite a somewhat formulaic analysis of the films, Green clearly establishes Micheaux's unrelenting critique of white supremacism and black complicity, his strong and original style, and his promotion of moderation, independence, and ethical integrity for class uplift. Green argues that even the antithetical successes of Van Peebles/Burnett and Cosby/Winfrey/Singleton/Lee have not achieved an institutionalized cinema of the middle classes, a cinema worthy of Micheaux's prior accomplishment. Green appends an insightful study of African American spirituals to this learned, passionate, and persuasive study of a fascinating artist. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers." — M. Yacowar, University of Calgary

About the Author:

J. Ronald Green is Associate Professor of Film Studies in the Department of History of Art at Ohio State University. His writings on Oscar Micheaux and other topics have appeared in journals such as Film Quarterly, Griffithiana, Black Film Review, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Journal of Film and Video, Cinema Journal, Afterimage, and Aperture, and in various anthologies, including Diawara's Black American Cinema.

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