Harlem Review (film #643 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This all-black 30s soundie has stereotypes aplenty, some pretty offensive. It starts with two black sailors who look straight out of a minstrel show talking about how they used to be admirals in the African Navy. Then we see them dressed as admirals on the S.S. Topsy, a ship decorated with racist cartoon characters. This is the most offensive part of the film. Then it switches to the music, which consists of several African-American performers probably trying very hard to get a break into show business. It’s too bad they had to appear in such a film in order to get started. Not only is it racist, but the sound quality is terrible, especially when the jazz band plays––it sounds like it was recorded from the other end of a dance hall. This film is a good historical record for how difficult it was for black performers to get started in one of the few fields they had a chance to make good money in, if they became stars. We may not have eliminated racism from our society, but at least we’re doing better than this.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

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