Hi. Welcome back to my on-going story about my book-writing adventure. I have thrown out this, and added in that, and I remembered to place (photo) where photos should be instead of the photos themselves. To some people I have spoken with, this part of book-writing seems tedious, but I love it.
The poster I have placed on this post “What Goes Up”, is from Eddie’s second picture, which he wrote, directed, starred in and produced though his Sepia Art Pictures Company.
“What Goes Up” starred Babe Mathews, Dick Campbell, Ho// ney Boy Johnson, Sydney Easton and Carol Pertlow.
Babe Matthews was a singer, dancer and actress who was very popular in the 1930s. She also appeared in “Paradise In Harlem”, written by Frank L. Wilson. There is a Youtube video of Babe Mathews, but I have not been able to find any pictures.
Dick Campbel, a successful performer in his own right, as a theater producer and director, helped launch the careers of several black theater artists, including Ossie Davis. He was also a co-founder of the Negro People’s Theatre in 1935.
Honey Boy Johnson was an actor who also acted in his own short “At the Mike”.
Sydney Easton was an actor, songwriter, composer and author who also appeared in “Paradise in Harlem.”
Carol Pertlow was a Sepia Art Pictures discovery, who had actually been crowned “Miss Sepia New Jersey” at New York’s Rockland Palace.
Eddie’s films were made at a studio lot in Palisades, New Jersey, while his office was in New York. While trying to gather information on the studio lot, I learned all about Fort Lee, New Jersey. Before Hollywood became the movie making capitol, there was Fort Lee.
In the early days of the American movie industry, the Fort Lee–Coytesville area became New Jersey’s busiest production center. The first permanent film studio built there was the Champion Film Company. Fort Lee is a borough at the eastern border of Bergen County, New Jersey, United States, in the New York City Metropolitan Area, situated atop the Hudson Palisades.
So, I got caught up in searching for “Sepia Art Pictures Company” in Fort Lee. What I have found was that today, on-line, I could not find any information about Black-owned film companies in 1939, until I decided to query Oscar Micheaux.
I discovered that in 2008, Fort Lee High School celebrated black history month by showcasing the history of black filmmakers and the borough’s (Fort Lee) extensive role in independent film, and that the borough council were in the works to construct a Fort Lee style “Walk of Fame” celebrating figures like Alice Guy-Blache, the first female filmmaker and Oscar Micheaux, the first major African-American filmmaker, both of whom worked extensively in Fort Lee.
Eddie came along maybe ten years after Oscar’s last full length movie, and since I know his movie studio lot was in Fort Lee (aka Palisades), I am pretty sure Eddie walked in Oscar’s footsteps. Of course, by the time Eddie got to Palisades, the big studios had moved on to Hollywood.
I found the script for Eddie’s second movie where he has a joke about being late to the set and he is speeding through the Holland Tunnel and gets pulled over by a cop: The cop says “Didn’t you see me standing in the middle of the street? And Eddie says “Yea, I saw you and said to myself, that man is going to get runned over standing out there!”
Money, or the lack thereof, was a big problem for blacks in the movie making business in the early 1900’s. If you were not a Sennett or a Selznick or affiliated with someone like them. you had a hard row to hoe in trying to make an inroad into the business. But Eddie was making a pretty good effort at realizing his dream.
Eddie was an independent. When he worked in his craft on stage, on the radio and on early television, he worked with Whites and Blacks, but when he was making his own movies, he insisted on using only black people in every aspect of getting the movie made, in part so that more Black people could have jobs, and he believed that in order to make movies that appealed to Black people, who better to do it. At his studio, Eddie had positions for scenario writers, photographers, lighting technicians and costume designers.
Eddie believed that Black people’s movie-making efforts were judged by Hollywood standards, the customary yardstick, which were high, and so, he always made sure he had young actors with fresh and interesting talent.
Thanks for visiting and hanging in with me. Oh, and so far I have a 46,781 word manuscript, hoping for 50,000, we’ll see.
Thanks, Joe Malvasio 2008 Fort Lee School Project