Oscar Micheaux: How Great Independent Filmmaker In America Survived

Oscar Michaeux, fully called Devereux Micheaux, was an African American producer and director who, out of his desire and ambition, made films independently of the Hollywood film industry from the silent era until 1948. He was said to have been from Metropolis and was born on January 25 1951 and died on 25 1951 at age 67 in North Carolina.

He worked as a Pullman porter where he bought the amazing South Dakta homestead in 1906, a film which he later lost due to family entanglements and challenges, though he had always been a rebellious son of the family. In fact, his experience with film production inspired a series of self- published books, including The Homesteader in 1917, and he sold his self- published books door to door.

In the same year, he was approached by an African American film company about the homesteader’ s film rights.

He only liked the idea but declined the offer, so he made his own film version, taking the risk of launching his career as an independent filmmaker.

Between 1919 and 1948, he wrote, produced, directed, and distributed more than 45 films for African American audiences, who watched ” race” described as all black films in the 700 theaters that were part of the ” ghetto circuit” .

Michaeux was one of the few black independents to survive the sound era, which he did largely due to his tenacity, personal charisma, and passion for promoting his career; he financed his next project by hand- distributing a complete film to theaters only to attract sponsorship from personal investors.

His films, however, mirrored familiar Hollywood genres, and as a wise man, he used an updated version of the studio star system to entice his audiences to his films. Both his gangster films, mysteries, and jungle adventures starred Lorenzo Tucker, who is known as the color Valentino.

He had special investors in his project, Ethel Moses (the black Harlow) and Bee Freeman (the sepia Mae West).

Despite his knowledge of Hollywood, Michael’ s films have a conscious awareness of race as a force in the lives of African Americans, and some deal directly with racism.

His consciousness includes his examination of white prejudice within our gates in 1920, the interracial romance exile in 1931 and finally the skin- tone issues within the African American community known as Gods step children in 1937.

Micheeux was unable to fund his project, so he hired a low- budget force from the coasts, resulting in technically inferior films with poor lighting, little editing, flubbed lines, continuity issues, and poor sound. Even with the challenge, he still maintained issues that were important to his audience by offering an alternative to the stereotyping of blacks by Hollywood and successfully operated outside the mainstream film industry during the powerful studio era.

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