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Veiled Aristocrats

Poster for Veiled Aristocrats
Directed by Oscar Micheaux
Produced by Oscar Micheaux
Written by Oscar Micheaux
Starring Lorenzo Tucker
Laura Bowman
Distributed by Micheaux Film Corporation
Release date(s) United States 1932
Country U.S.A.
Language English

Veiled Aristocrats is a 1932 race film directed, written, produced and distributed by Oscar Micheaux.

Contents

Plot

John Walden, a light-skinned African American lawyer, returns to his family in North Carolina after being away for 20 years. John is able to successfully pass himself off as being white. He discovers domestic turmoil: his mother is trying to dissuade his sister Rena, who is also light-skinned, from being romantically involved with Frank Fowler, a dark-skinned African American businessman. With his mother’s blessing, John proposes that Rena abandon Frank and move with him to another city, where she would be able to pass for white. Rena reluctantly agrees and John sets her up in a fancy home with African American servants who are initially unaware of Rena's race. Rena is pursued by a white aristocrat who proposed marriage. However, she becomes uncomfortable with the racial deception, announcing that she is a "negress" and is "tired of being a liar and a cheat". Rena reunites with Frank and they elope.[1][2]

Production

Veiled Aristocrats was Oscar Micheaux's second film adaptation of the 1900 novel The House Behind the Cedars by Charles W. Chesnutt; a silent film production was made in 1927 (no print of that film is known to exist today).[3] For this version, Micheaux altered the Chesnutt story by having Rena and Frank get married (Chesnutt’s book ends with Rena’s death). Micheaux's screenplay is often blunt in its dissection of color lines within the African American community, with John declaring at one point: "I've heard, right on the street, a coal black Negro declares he loves her!"[4]

Micheaux shot much of Veiled Aristocrats at his mother-in-law’s home in Montclair, New Jersey.[1] Lorenzo Tucker, who played John, was a popular leading man of the race film genre and was dubbed the "black Valentino" because of his striking good looks.[5] Laura Bowman, who played Rena, was the leading lady in several of Micheaux’s films during the 1930s, including Ten Minutes to Live (1932) and Murder in Harlem (1935).[6]

Surviving copy

No extant print of Veiled Aristocrats is known to exist. It was presumed to be a lost film for many years, until a trailer and fragments from two reels were discovered in a Tennessee garage in 1992.[4] The surviving footage was restored by the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, and has been preserved in the Library of Congress.[1][4] The original film’s running time is unknown, and most of the final ten minutes of the surviving incomplete version consists of musical numbers performed Rena’s house servants, including a rendition of the song River, Stay Away from My Door.[2]

References

  1. ^ a b c "Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960" by Alan Gevinson, University of California Press, 1997, ISBN 0520209648
  2. ^ a b “An Oscar for Micheaux,” Time Magazine, June 6, 2002
  3. ^ "Progressive Silent Film List: The House Behind the Cedars", SilentEra.com
  4. ^ a b c "The Magic Hour: Film at Fin de Siècle" by J. Hoberman, Temple University Press, 2003, ISBN 1566399955
  5. ^ "Lorenzo Tucker Dies; Stage and Screen Actor", New York Times, August 30, 1986
  6. ^ "Laura Bowman", The Complete Index To World Film since 1895

External links

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