The above is a picture taken of the letterhead my father used during his 1939-41 movie making period. Eddie had two studios during his lifetime, the second studio he had was in Los Angeles in 1946-1950. As you can see, Eddie was very proud of his achievement and he was a man who was intent on furthering the African-American community.
Now that I have written the biography of my father, the manuscript has been sent for editing after which I will get to make any revisions deemed necessary and then the publisher will take over. So, the focus of this blog will eventually shift from writing about Eddie’s life to writing about how the book is received. Whether it will attract readers and whether it will hopefully provide inspiration. I will also write about how this book writing journey has helped to increase my understanding of the struggles that still exist for black independent film makers today.
I have become almost painfully aware of the lack of movies being made by African-Americans, of African-Americans and with African-Americans. Movies written by, produced by, and directed by African-Americans with an all-black cast.
Before 1950 there was The Lincoln Motion Picture Company of George and Noble Johnson. This company is considered to be the first all-black movie production company. The company made and distributed only five films. These films were limited to African American audiences in churches, schools, and “Colored Only” theaters, despite the Johnson brothers wanting a wider audience. Unfortunately production expenses and low sales halted future films to be made and distributed. There was Spencer Williams (he of Amos n Andy television fame), Williams along with a partner formed a movie and newsreel company, the Lincoln Talking Pictures Company. There was Oscar Micheaux of the Micheaux Book & Film Company (probably the most well-known early black film maker, who directed and produced over 40 films.) And there was Eddie Green, who owned two studios, Sepia-Art Pictures and Sepia Production Co. Like the Lincoln Motion Picture Company Eddie produced only five movies, four in 1939-1941 and one in 1949. Eddie directed, wrote, produced and acted in each movie.
Eddie died in 1950. Oscar Micheaux died in 1951. By then black owned studios were becoming a thing of the past, mostly due to production expenses. White movie producers began producing the so-called “race” movies and were able to woo black actors with bigger paychecks.
Once Hollywood took off, black actors became famous through these mainstream “Hollywood” made movies, movies like St. Louis Blues (1958) with Nat King Cole, Eartha Kitt, Ruby Dee, Ella Fitzgerald. Superfly (1972) which was produced by Warner Bros.
Then along came Spike Lee in the early 1980s, with his 40 Acres and a Mule Productions. I could be wrong, but from what I have researched he wrote, produced, directed and starred in She’s Gotta Have It, and the movie had an all-black cast in a black neighborhood. Hello!
Now, of course, there are more independent black owned film companies, but you have to stumble upon them. Well, maybe not Harpo, which produced the movie Beloved, which had a white director.
The integration of blacks into movies made by the major movie studios contributed to the decline of all black cast movies. Lack of money was a major factor. The deaths of our pioneers was another major factor. The early independent pioneers struggled. Blacks, whites, women. Blacks have blended into the movie industry very well on the screen. The so-called “race” movies that were produced, directed, written, and photographed and starred in by only blacks, seem to no longer exist. There are how many black-owned film studios? Few. There is still a struggle going on.
Going forward with this blog, I want to research and write about more people who are working to achieve recognition. Who deserve recognition. There is room at the top and I would like to put some effort into pushing someone up. My book is about my father who happens to be black which gives me a good reason to focus on black progress. But my major desire is to be able to contribute some positivity to anyone’s ability to rise.