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Friday, September 13, 2013

The Green Pastures (1936)




























Starring:
  • Rex Ingram
  • Oscar Polk
  • Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson
IMDB.com
God, heaven, and several Old Testament stories, including the Creation and Noah's Ark, are described supposedly using the perspective of rural, black Americans.

When you pop either THE GREEN PASTURES or HALLELUJAH in your DVD player, Warner Brothers' disclaimer comes up, stating these films "are a product of their time.... it does not express Warner Brothers' opinion....." Okay, they're setting the record straight. They want to present two excellent movies, without offending anyone. The "warning" is eclipsed by two factors. These two films, both with all black casts, showcase amazing talent often smothered by the then Hollywood studio system. They also both carry a message of faith told in a very entertaining manner.

THE GREEN PASTURES opens with a Sunday School sermon in the deep south. The classroom is made up of attentive black children asking some pretty intelligent questions about the Bible. We peek into one child's view of heaven. Since this child probably knows very little of the world outside her community, heaven is one big fish-fry with plenty to eat, where the adults get to hangout and smoke ten-cent "see-gars".

It's here where God (referred to in the film as "De Lawd") makes an appearance. This is an Oscar worthy performance by Rex Ingram, one of many black actors at the time who seldom received decent film work from Hollywood. Ingram plays "De Lawd" in a sweet, soft-spoken manner, never talking down to the humans he created. "Now you're just doing fine," he tells Adam. "But there's just one thing missing. You need a family." Ingram's quiet tone always tells us this guy has things in order. Film fans may remember Rex Ingram as Jim in HUCKLEBERRY FINN (1939) and as the laughing, constantly sarcastic genie in THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940). Not only was Ingram an accomplished stage actor, but he was a certified MD as well!

Ingram also plays Adam and Hezdrel. During the later performance, GREEN PASTURES most memorable time-tested message comes across very simply. We realize this is truly a cinematic classic. The Bible stories are depicted here in pseudo 20th century settings with old world behavior. (Much like the villages in the first three FRANKENSTEIN films) Moses is a modern-day "trickster" who gives Pharaoh's top magician a run for his money. In another scene, a pistol packing gangster in a double breasted suit mouths off to Noah.

1 comments:

Melvin X said...

There is french adaptation of this classic movie : Les verts paturages by Jean-Christophe Averty, with Robert Liensol, Théo Légitimus and Med Hondo (a great actor and director, and the voice of Eddie Murphie in France)
=> http://melvin-rated-x.blogspot.fr/2011/10/les-verts-paturages.html

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