27 February 2008 | Michael_Elliott
Decent Race Film
Way Down South (1939)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Interesting race picture from RKO features two black writers (Clarence Muse, Langston Hughes) doing the screenplay. Set before the Civil War, a plantation owner dies leaving his farm and slaves to his young son (Bobby Breen). Soon an executive comes into play and tries to sell the slaves but the young kid won't stand for this as the slaves are his only friends. It's interesting to see a Hollywood picture from this era treating blacks with any sort of respect and in many ways it's more respectful than many of the other race pictures that I've seen, which were made by black directors. The film only runs 61-minutes so the drama of slavery isn't ever really looked at and the film would later be criticized by the NAACP for showing "happy slaves". The films main goal is to have a spotlight for the young Breen and he's pretty good here, although his musical numbers aren't anything special.