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Body and Soul

Director: Oscar Micheaux

Genre: Drama

Year: 1925

Running time: 80 minutes

Territory: International

Studio: Cohen

Cast: Paul Robeson, Julia Theresa Russell, Mercedes Gilbert, Chester A. Alexander, Lawrence Chenault

Paul Robeson's first film, very rare and the only surviving silent film of the pioneer of all-Black filmmaking, Oscar Micheaux, an innovator who, between 1918 and 1940, wrote, produced, directed and personally distributed nearly 30 films.

"One of Micheaux's artistic triumphs" in which "Robeson play(s) a dissolute, venal black preacher with a double life. He shows up in a seedy speakeasy full of criminals and cardsharps, then appears trying to dupe a pious mother into marrying off her daughter. The film cuts back and forth between the two rogues as they grow more corrupt and treacherous. The roles are symbolized by two portraits: a mugshot of Robeson from the Police Gazette on the wall of the gambling hall, and a huge painting of a benign Booker T. Washington on the church wall. Near the end both roles are revealed as shams: Robeson is really a powerful, kind, and handsome man who will close the speakeasy. A strong, resolute, and masculine black emerged from the hysterical stereotypes of the whites." - Norman Kagan, Black American Cinema.


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