Richard Maurice

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Richard D. Maurice
Born Richard Danal Maurice
(1893-06-14)June 14, 1893
Matanzas, Cuba
Residence Detroit, New York City
Occupation Film director, union organizer
Notable work Eleven P.M.
Home town Detroit
Spouse(s) Birdie I. Madison
Children Richard D. Maurice, Jr. (b. 1916)
Wanda Maurice

Richard D. Maurice (born June 14, 1893; fl. 1951) was a pioneering filmmaker of African descent during the silent era. Later he became involved in labor organizing and helped found the Dining Car and Railroad Food Workers union.

Early years[edit]

Richard Danal Maurice was born in Matanzas, Cuba on June 14, 1893.[1] In 1903, Maurice immigrated to the United States.[2] He lived in Detroit, where he owned and operated a tailor's shop.[3]

Entertainment career[edit]

In July 1920, he founded the Maurice Film Company, with offices at 184 High Street in Detroit. It released two feature films, made almost ten years apart. Nobody's Children, the company's first feature, premiered at E.B. Dudley's Vaudette Theatre in Detroit on Monday, September 27, 1920 and played widely within the eastern United States.[4][5]

While extensive documentation exists regarding the release of Nobody's Children (however, no prints are known to exist), very little is known about the release of Eleven P.M., Maurice's second and only known surviving feature. It is generally dated 1928, but Pearl Bowser and Charles Musser in their essay, "Richard D. Maurice and the Maurice Film Company," speculate that the experimental film may have been completed the following year or possibly even 1930 because it "possesses a cinematic style and internal evocations of other race films" of the period.[4]

It is regarded by historian Henry T. Sampson as one of the most outstanding black films of the silent era.

Bowser and Musser also praise the film by stating, "Maurice's innovative use of cinematography–location filming, unusual angles, and tracking shots as well as special, almost surrealist effects–distinguish the film from its surviving counterparts of race cinema."[4]

His involvement in the motion picture industry lasted at least until the early 1930s. He's listed as a motion picture producer in the 1930 U.S. Census.[2]

Involvement in organized labor[edit]

In 1940, Maurice became involved in dining-car service as a waiter for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in New York City. Following his move three years later to the New York Central Railroad in the same capacity, he helped found the Dining Car and Railroad Food Workers union, local 370.[6]

In 1946, Maurice began to have major disagreements with the union. His dissatisfaction with the union culminated in an op-ed piece published in the Amsterdam News in which he accused the union leadership of being ineffective in representing the rights of rank-and-file workers.[6]

In August 1951, after he left the union, Maurice testified before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, headed by Senator James O. Eastland of Mississippi. The Subcommittee Investigating Subversive Influence in the Dining Car and Railroad Food Workers Union also included Senator Pat McCarran of Nevada and Senator Arthur V. Watkins of Utah. The subcommittee was formed in the wake of the Internal Security Act. During his testimony, Maurice accused Solon C. Bell, the union's president, and several key union officials as being affiliated with the Communist Party.[6]


  • Nobody's Children (1920)
  • Home Brew (1920) [short]
  • Eleven P.M. (1928)


  1. ^ "World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]". United States: The Generations Network. 1917. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  2. ^ a b "Fifteenth Census of the United States (1930) [database on-line] , Detroit (Ward 16), Wayne County, Michigan, Enumeration District: 82-515, Page: 2A, Line: 5, household of Richard Maurice". United States: The Generations Network. 1930-04-07. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  3. ^ "Fourteenth Census of the United States (1920) [database on-line] , Detroit (3rd Ward), Wayne County, Michigan, Enumeration District: 94, Page: 4A, Line: 2, household of Richard D. Maurice". United States: The Generations Network. 1920-01-05. Retrieved 2009-09-27. 
  4. ^ a b c Bowser, Pearl (2001). Jane Gaines; Charles Musser, eds. Oscar Micheaux and His Circle. Richard D. Maurice and the Maurice Film Company. Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press. pp. 191–194. ISBN 0-253-33994-4. 
  5. ^ Sampson, Henry T. (1977). Blacks in Black and White: A Source Book on Black Films. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. pp. 76, 97. ISBN 0-8108-1023-9. 
  6. ^ a b c "Testimony of Richard D. Maurice, New York City, N.Y.". Hearings Before The Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. 1951. pp. 14, 47–54, 67–68. I have a copy here of the Amsterdam News, which contained a release by Richard D. Maurice, of New York City, who was one of the founders of the Dining Car and Railroad Food Workers, but who broke with the organization. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bowser, Pearl; Jane Gaines; Charles Musser (2001). Oscar Micheaux and His Circle: African-American Filmmaking of the Silent Era. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-33994-4. 
  • Alan Gevinson, ed. (1997). Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. pp. 309–310. ISBN 0520209648. 

External links[edit]