It pains me to say that I had never heard of this film until a few months ago. It’s only sad because it’s such a precious gem with footage perhaps so rare, there’s hardly anything like this preserved. An all black cast movie this old? Has this been restored and put on DVD ? maybe, seeing as I found a copy of the film on YouTube.
Dramatic events in a Harlem apartment house centre around Pa Wilkins, chosen by the Better Business League to replace their ousted, crooked leader Marshall…who wants revenge; and Pa’s ward Jim Bracton, a two-timing Romeo whose affairs are coming to a crisis. And hanging around is Marshall’s murderous junkie henchman, Lomax. Will it all end in someone’s being killed?
Now I haven’t watched it all the way through, but I have read time and time again that this is not a murder mystery, despite the title. The only Murder on Lennox Avenue that happens in the film, happens in the last few minutes of the entire film. It’s not a mystery because apparently the killer is shown doing the deed on-screen.
Regrettably, though unsurprising, the sound and picture quality isn’t great, but the woman often referred to as the ‘Mother of Blues’ music Mamie Smith stars and sings (SOLD).
What I’m most intrigued to see is what actually happens and how it unfolds;from the few films I have seen, lack of budget and threadbare dialogue, flat story-lines doesn’t charm me it just makes me angry. I know it was a different time (although many all black films today leave a lot to be desired) but it still pisses me off.
Much of the cast and crew collaborated on another all black cast film called, Sunday Sinners, also directed by Arthur Dreifuss Other films of this variety that I plan to look out for include: The Payoff, Boss of Big Town and Baby Face Morgan and his more well-known film with co-screenwriter Vincent Valentini, the exploitation classic Sex Madness and Boy What a Girl.
A precious glance at Harlem and African-American culture in the nineteen forties, Murder on Lenox Avenue is a walk through nightclubs and political strife, home life and murder.Intricately woven, the biting characters of Murder on Lenox Avenue are mostly out to get each other: from stealing jobs to stealing daughters. Historically significant, abrasive, and politically charged, Murder on Lenox Avenue is an electric foray into Harlem in the early twentieth century.
My Sunday morning is sorted! film below.