“In my own image, let there be man.”
African-American children in a rural church listen to their Sunday School teacher (George Reed) tell creatively staged biblical stories, including the story of Adam (Rex Ingram) and Eve (Myrtle Anderson), Noah (Eddie “Rochester” Anderson) and his ark, and Moses (Frank Wilson) — all overseen by “De Lawd” (Rex Ingram) himself.
- Biblical Stories
- Play Adaptations
- Priests and Ministers
- Rex Ingram Films
Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, this film with an all-black cast remains a unique relic of its era — nicely described in TCM’s article:
Imagine, if you can, a “Southern-style Heaven” where black English vernacular is spoken, fish fries and free cigars are plentiful, and the Hall Johnson Choir sings spirituals in the background all day. In other words, you have a broadly played black miracle play…
TCM’s article also points out criticism of the movie by black film historian Donald Bogle, who notes that it “rests on a cruel assumption: that nothing could be more ludicrous than transporting the lowly language and folkways of the early twentieth-century Negro back to the high stately world before the flood.” With that said, it’s refreshing to see a rare mainstream 1930s movie centering black individuals’ lives, experiences, dreams, and fears; it’s too bad the film’s trailer was literally dominated by white actor Dick Powell (though at least this gives crucial historical context to the film’s release and reception).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A creative biblical narrative
Yes, as a unique film of its era.
One thought on “Green Pastures, The (1936)”
Not must-see, though it may be of some interest to those studying Black History in Film.
While I agree that it’s “refreshing to see a rare mainstream 1930s movie centering on black individuals’ lives”, it’s disappointing that the film is little more than a reaffirmation of basic biblical teachings, served up in a manner that is somewhat pedestrian and pedantic. Though the cast seems willing, I can’t help but feel that the approach taken is facile and patronizing… primarily to the viewers.
There is a welcome inclusion near the end that delves into the important issue of faith. Still, the overall effect comes off as jejune.