Vintage Black Cinema
Issue Date: July 16, 2008
City: Newark, NJ
Released in 1929, “Hallelujah” was one of the first all-black major studio motion pictures. The film follows the story of a sharecropper named Zeke who falls for a seductive dancer named Chick. After Chick scams Zeke out of $100 of his family’s cotton crop money, a fight ensues and his brother Spunk is killed. Traumatized by his experience, Zeke leaves and becomes a minister. He eventually returns to find Chick still cares for him. He abandons his ministry, marries Chick, and begins working in a log mill.
Zeke soon finds out, however, that Chick has been cheating on him with her former boyfriend Hot Shot. Zeke chases them as they try to leave him, but their carriage turns over. After Chick confesses for never changing her ways, she dies, and Zeke chases down and kills Hot Shot. After serving his time in prison, Zeke returns home to his family, who rejoices in welcoming him back.
“Hallelujah” was director King Vidor’s (one of MGM Studio’s top directors) first sound film, which earned him an Oscar nomination for best director. The film was also one of the first film appearances of Nina Mae McKinney (who some consider the first black movie star).
Director King Vidor’s groundbreaking “Hallelujah” is honored on a 2008 U.S. postage stamp in a set of five stamps commemorating Vintage Black Cinema.