Veiled Aristocrats (1932)

OSCAR MICHEAUX

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5

USA, 1932.  .  Screenplay by Oscar Micheaux, based on the novel The House Behind The Cedars by .  Produced by Oscar Micheaux.

Oscar Micheaux’s films do not easily stand the test of time, the low budget productions evident on the screen in prints that are rarely still in complete condition.  Nasty jumps and garbled audio result quite frequently in this remake of Micheaux’s own silent film The House Behind The Cedars, and the performances leave a lot to be desired, but there is so much strength and intelligence in the presentation of racial politics in early 1930s North Carolina that it shoots across the decades and feels as vibrant as ever despite the drawbacks.  A lawyer returns to his mother’s home years after having been sent to the north to be educated, his pale complexion having allowed him to pass for white and avoid the disadvantages that otherwise would have kept him from success.  His equally light-skinned sister is in love with a darker man and wants to marry him, but her brother prefers that she take advantage of the opportunity to better her station in life by equaling his charade and marry a white man instead.  While you might at first be jarred by the technical inadequacies of the project (Micheaux’s oeuvre was not given much serious consideration until well after his time, which is why his films find themselves in such shoddy conditions now), there’s no denying that it leaves you with plenty to think about.

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