The Norman Studios Silent Film Museum and the Hotel Indigo® Jacksonville will screen Oscar Micheaux’s Body and Soul at the next Silent Sundays event February 25, 4pm.
This 1925 film features iconic entertainer Paul Robeson in his only silent role as an escaped prisoner who flees to the predominantly African-American town of Tatesville, GA posing as the Rt. Reverend Isaiah T. Jenkins. Along with a fellow criminal, he schemes to swindle the congregation of their offerings. But their plan goes off the rails when Jenkins falls for a beautiful young woman already in love with another – who just happens to be Jenkins’s long-estranged twin brother.
Originally a nine-reel production, Body and Soul was subjected to multiple edits when the Motion Picture Commission of the State of New York denied Micheaux an exhibition license on the grounds it would “tend to incite to crime” and was “immoral” and “sacrilegious”. Though it was clear that Robeson’s character was a criminal only posing as a minister, visuals of a man of the cloth drinking alcohol proved too risqué for censors. Micheaux was forced to cut the offending scenes, reducing the film to five reels, and write a new ending – a loss felt deeply by film historians and silent film fans.
Jacksonville University’s Tony Steve and the Silver Synchro Sounds will provide live musical accompaniment. Tickets are $5 and available at the door (cash or credit) and online.
Silent Sundays proceeds support efforts of the Norman Studios Silent Film Museum, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing public knowledge of Northeast Florida’s early film industry and the preservation and restoration of Jacksonville’s only remaining silent film studio. The Norman Studios was among the nation’s first to produce films starring all African American casts.