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Friday, February 1, 2013

Miracle in Harlem (1948)

















Starring:
  • Sheila Guyse
  • Stepin Fetchit
  • Hilda Offley
IMDB.com
This is a musical murder mystery. The plot, like most musicals, tends to get in the way of the music at times, but it's really not bad. The mean corporate baron swindles the sweet, honest but naive young woman out of her candy business, and she is blamed when he meets an untimely end. Besides the big industrial boss, we've got a dedicated secretary, a loyal henchman, a no count son, an upright boyfriend, a sickly grandmother, an understanding pastor, and an assortment of cops who jump to conclusions, underhanded characters who lurk about, and girls who entice. And there's Stepin Fetchit playing -- Stepin Fetchit! Sometimes, as here, he was genuinely funny, despite playing a character who was an insult to the HUMAN race. In short, there are all the elements of a standard murder mystery drama, which is what the film is, essentially.

But this is also a musical with numbers ranging from rather rough, but realistic, congregational hymn singing, to hot jazz. The 'pop' type numbers are first rate, and the 'Watch Out!' number by the Lynn Proctor Trio is worth far more that the price of admission, which was probably about two bits or less at the time and places of this film's release.

This is one of the best of the genre of 'Race Movies,' which were made on shoestring budgets in the 1920's and 30's by Black production companies with all-Black casts, for showing in Black neighborhood movie houses.

This is a fine film, though not lavish. It's interesting for its genre, but entertaining in its own right. I recommend it without reservation.

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