Category: Afrian Americana

Treemonisha - Scott Joplin

African American Musical Theater

Background:

Before the turn of the 20thth Century the idea of Black Musical Theater was a second-hand treatment of black life created by European-American performers, performing stereotyped “coon songs” in blackface.  This began to change as African American composers and lyrists such as Will Marion Cook and Bob Cole brought black-written musical comedy to Broadway in 1898.

Cook’s Clorindy, or The Origin of the Cake Walk, an hour-long sketch, was the first all-black musical to play in a prestigious Broadway house, Casino Theatre‘s Roof Garden. Cole’s A Trip to Coontown was the first full-length New York musical comedy written, directed and performed exclusively by blacks. 

Bob Cole and brothers John Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson focused on elevating the lyrical sophistication of African American songs. Their first collaboration was “Louisiana Lize”, a love song written in a new lyrical style that left out the watermelons, razors, and “hot mamas” typical of earlier “coon songs.”

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Miles Davis Jazz Musicians

by Bill Reed

In the first half of the 20th Century these eight, great black jazz musicians, who helped to create one of America’s unique contributions to the musical canon, come alive in the wonderful posters, photographs and promotional pieces that are part of Walter Films’ collection of African Americana. Jazz, a music genre that originated in the African American community, is known for its soulfulness and complex musical variations. Click on an image to view offering.

MILES DAVIS

Background

One of the greats in the pantheon of African Americana is Miles Davis (seen above). Davis picked up the trumpet at age 13. Before it was all over, he’d won just about every honor and glory a jazz musician can achieve, including six Grammys and numerous best-selling albums. The Grammy Hall of Fame inducted ten of his releases, including 1949’s Birth of the Cool, and, from a decade later, Kind of Blue. *

The groundwork above and much more was laid down when, in 1944, he relocated to New York City. He soon became part of the wellspring of the new jazz sound, known as be-bop. His contemporaries included the likes of bandleader Billy Eckstine, alto sax giant Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

Before long, Davis became well-known enough to start up his own small music group. It included name musicians, like Sonny Rollins and Art Blakey. Its descriptive title . . . “The New Sounds.”

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WalterFilm.com’s fourth catalog (#45/2020) contains 96 pages that include vintage original photographs, posters, programs, pressbooks, lobby cards and film scripts. The categories encompassed are: Featured, Film Noir, Directors, Poster Art, LGBTQ, Comedy, Women, Literature and African Americana.

The catalog’s cover (above) is the original poster from the play PORGY by Dorothy and Dubois Heyward, which became the source for the opera PORGY AND BESS with book by Dubois Heyward and music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin.

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JOSEPHINE BAKER – a photograph in La Creole (1934)

JOSEPHINE BAKER  – above photograph from “La Creole” (1934)

Walter Film.com offers a range of vintage African-American Collectibles or Black Memorabilia that celebrate the achievements of actors, artists, musicians, athletes, politicians, and other members of the black community.

Vintage African Americana (vintage original star photographs, posters, lobby cards, film scripts, newspaper articles, rare books and advertising or marketing collectibles)  identified with all types of black celebrities is highly valued, as exampled by Walter Film’s own offerings that includes the following:

PINKY – a group of 14 8 x 10″ photographs from the 1949, Twentieth Century Fox Film starring Jeanne Crain with an Oscar nominated performance by Ethel Waters, directed by Elia Kazan;

Ethel Walter in "Pinky"

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