Midnight Ramble (film)
|Midnight Ramble (1994)|
|Directed by||Pearl Bowser
|Produced by||Beth Deare
Pamela A. Thomas
|Written by||Clyde Taylor|
Toni Cade Bambara
St. Claire Bourne Sr.
|Music by||Caleb Sampson|
|Editing by||Kathy Russ|
|Distributed by||American Experience|
|Release dates||October 26, 1994|
|Running time||60 min.|
Midnight Ramble is a 1994 documentary about Black Hollywood movies from the period between 1910 and 1950, which were commonly known as "race movies". This documentary is a tribute to a film genre that lasted for more than forty years, produced over 500 movies, and created a foundation for contemporary films from directors such as Spike Lee and Tyler Perry. James Avery narrates this exploration of the early black film industry, which began largely in reaction to D. W. Griffith's 1915 The Birth of a Nation, and served to counteract Hollywood stereotypes within the American black community. The film focuses especially on the work of Oscar Micheaux, a controversial filmmaker who wrote, produced, and directed over 40 features, and who tackled difficult social issues in Black America. It includes clips from films by a number of African-American directors of the period, which is very helpful since many of these films are difficult to find or unavailable. There are two versions of the title of the documentary, both referring to the same work. It was released as Midnight Ramble: The Story of the Black Film Industry by PBS  although the film's producer titles it as Midnight Ramble: Oscar Micheaux & the Story of Race Movies
The documentary begins with an explanation of the social context for American blacks at the turn of the 20th century. It then looks at milestones in the development of race films. This includes a look at early silent films, most notably the work of William Foster (The Pullman Porter, 1910).
With the release of The Birth of a Nation in 1915, writer Oscar Micheaux, the grandson of slaves, shifted his attention to film, releasing his first race film, The Homesteader, in 1918, followed in 1920 by Within Our Gates and The Symbol of the Unconquered in 1921. With the transition to sound, Micheaux continued to make race films, some of which were controversial even within the Black community.
While the advent of sound decreased the number of race films being made, due to the rise in costs, notable films continued to be released. This included a series of three singing-cowboy movies starring Herb Jeffries as "The Bronze Buckaroo."
- James Avery: Narrator
- Toni Cade Bambara: Commentator (author)
- Elton Fax: Commentator (illustrator)
- Carlton Moss: Commentator (filmmaker)
- Dorothy Delfs: Commentator
- Shingzie Howard: Commentator (actress)
- Herb Jeffries: Commentator (actor)
- Robert Hall: Commentator (historian)
- Pearl Bowser: Commentator (archivist)
- Frances E. Williams: Commentator (actress)
- Olive Delfs: Commentator
- St. Claire Bourne Sr.: Commentator (journalist)
- Edna Mae Harris: Commentator (actress)
Midnight Ramble was chosen as the lead-off for a 1998 Turner Classic Movie Channel series, A Separate Cinema, in which 29 race films were shown, including Micheaux's 1920 Within Our Gates and The Symbol of the Unconquered (1921). In selecting the films to be shown, producers called upon the expertise of its staff, film historians, professors at Yale and Duke universities, and film archivist Pearl Bowser, who also directed Midnight Ramble.
- Paula C. Barnes. New Voices on the Harlem Renaissance: Essays on Race, Gender, and Literary Discourse, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, p. 276 (2006) - ISBN 0-8386-4073-7
- "The American Experience/PBS. 1995. VHS."
- Thomas, Pam (prod.)."Black Folks Make Movies". Cincinnati OH.
- Thomas, Larry. October 2007. "Movie Reviews: Midnight Ramble". WVXU Radio, Cincinnati.
- Cincinnati World Cinema. 2007. "Film Notes for Midnight Rambles."
- Haynes, Monica. 30 June 1998. "Looking back at black films.": Post-Gazette.com Magazine/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved August 14, 2007.
- Midnight Ramble. 2009. Synergy Archive Series/Synergy Entertainment. DVD.
- Midnight Ramble: The Story of the Black Film Industry. 1995. American Experience/PBS. VHS (ASIN 6303408508).
- Midnight Ramble: The Story of the Black Film Industry. October 1994. American Experience/PBS. Broadcast.
- Janet K. Cutler. Struggles for Representation: African American Struggles for Representation: Documentary Film and Video, Indiana University Press (2004) - ISBN 0-253-21347-9.