Oscar Micheaux • United States • 1931
Micheaux's most outrageous film: a traditional minstrel show.
Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux was something of a firebrand, but his attitudes and methods were anything but predictable—often leveling criticism at certain strata of the African-American community. His most outrageous film is a traditional minstrel show—an olio of broad comedy and choral interludes. It is an acknowledgement of minstrelsy as a defining tradition of African-American stage performance. If nothing else, THE DARKTOWN REVUE is an invaluable historical document for recording on film the “Hard Shell Sermon” routine popularized by turn-of-the-century minstrel performer Amon Davis. But there is something else. True to form, Micheaux’s depiction of a minister is not flattering. Davis’s comic sermon of gibberish is a scathing satire of charismatic religion, made even more troubling by the fact that it is performed by a black man in blackface.