Page 96 - Catalog 46 | 2020
P. 96

62. Langston Hughes, Clarence Muse (screenwriters)
WAY DOWN SOUTH (1939; 2nd release, 1949)
[Hollywood]: Screencraft, [1948]. Vintage original 41 x 27” (104 x 69 cm.) poster. On linen, with a few surface abrasions, primarily on lower left, but with bright colors, very good-.
WAY DOWN SOUTH is the only theatrical feature film written by Langston Hughes (in collaboration with African American actor Clarence Muse, who also played the major supporting role of “Uncle Caton” in the film). Hughes and Muse intended to create a story about antebellum Louisiana, in which African Americans’ role in history could be more accu- rately portrayed.The result was inevitably heavily compromised by the studio but, nonetheless, this extremely rare title (both paper from it and the film itself, although it exists, is very hard to see) does document a forgotten moment in Hughes’ illustrious career.
During co-author Muse’s career he repeatedly gave dignity to stereotyped servant roles in Hollywood movies.
”He had an uncanny ability to distinguish his characters by breathing realism and spiritual- ity into the downhome family man persona he had been playing since... 1929.” (Kisch, Separate Cinema, p. 92)
All ephemera from this obscure little film are very scarce, and this poster, somehow, manages to be just as elusive as posters from the original 1939 release (and with an entirely different design). Also, 1939 posters for this film barely show the African American cast members, whereas this 1949 poster gives them greater prominence. Richards 1242.

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