(Edwin Middleton, T. Hayes Hunter, Sam Corker Jr., US 1913, 63 min., 35mm)
Silent Tuesdays. At a challenging time of segregation in the fall of 1913, a virtuoso cast of black performers led by famed Caribbean American entertainer Bert Williams (1874–1922) gathered in the Bronx to make a feature-length motion picture. After more than an hour of film was shot, the project was abandoned by its white producers and left forgotten—until today. Found in MoMA’s Biograph Studio collection, the seven reels of untitled and unassembled footage represent the earliest known surviving feature with a cast of black actors. Shot at locations in New York and New Jersey, the comedy centers on Williams’s efforts to win the hand of the local beauty and boasts among its highlights a two-minute exhibition dance sequence and a cutting-edge display of on-screen affection between its leads.
Live piano by Philip C. Carli. Special presentation by Ron Magliozzi, curator in the Department of Film, MoMA.
Print courtesy of MoMA.