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The Exile (1931) DVD

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The Exile (1931)


Oscar Micheaux


Oscar Micheaux (novel), Oscar Micheaux (screenplay)


Eunice Brooks, Stanley Morrell, Celeste Cole

One of the more controversial black films of the early sound era, this Oscar Micheaux production was billed as the "first Negro talker." Stanley Morrell starred as Jean Baptiste, an honest black youth whose girlfriend, Edith (Eunice Brooks), turns down his proposal of marriage in favor of running a Chicago gambling establishment. Dejected, Jean builds a new life for himself as a farmer in South Dakota. He falls in love with Agnes (Nora Newsome), the daughter of his white neighbor, and she reciprocates his feelings. But fearing that the racial barrier would make marriage impossible, Jean returns to Chicago and once again proposes to Edith. She accepts this time but is killed by a jealous suitor (Charles Moore). Jean is at first accused of the killing but manages to clear his name. Agnes, meanwhile, has learned from her father that her mother was "of Ethiopian descent," leaving her free to marry Jean. With a reported budget of only $4,500, Micheaux filmed part of this melodrama at New York City's Charles Schwab mansion without having secured the necessary authorization. The Exile was banned in several places, ostensibly because it lacked a seal of approval from local censorship boards. The real reason, however, was more likely its depiction of a love affair between an African-American man and a black woman "passing" for white. Reportedly, Micheaux was so unhappy with Stanley Morrell's performance that he re-filmed scenes with Lorenzo Tucker as Jean. Surviving prints of The Exile, however, feature Morrell in the role.

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