REGENERATION — BLACK CINEMA 1898–1971 recognizes the audacity of many Black film pioneers and their rejection of the status quo. An objective in organizing this exhibition was to shed light on filmmakers and performers whose work is lesser known, in addition to recognizing the achievements and challenges of Black stars in Hollywood. Black films and filmmakers have often been overshadowed and banished to the margins, and many Black films no longer exist or may be mislabeled and languishing in archives or private storage units around the world. This project builds on the groundbreaking scholarly work of the Pioneers of African-American Cinema collection, which brought numerous race films to a wider audience, and we hope that our project inspires more discovery of lost or important films. — Doris Berger and Rhea L. Combs*
“Regeneration”—in the 1923 silent race film that shares its title—is an imaginary island of castaways who have discovered a treasure chest on its beachfront. As a concept, regeneration—which suggests both a renewal of potentialities as well as a return—also informs aspects of James Snead’s seminal essay “Repetition as a Figure of Black Culture.” REGENERATION — BLACK CINEMA 1898–1971 organizes the art and history behind these ideas into a beautifully realized multimedia exhibition at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
In addition to photographs, scripts, drawings, costumes, moviemaking equipment, posters, and original contemporary artworks spread over seven galleries, the museum is presenting several related film programs. On December 1, celebrate the restoration world premiere of Harlem on the Prairie, the 1937 musical starring Herb Jeffries.
See links below for details.
Curated by Doris Berger and Rhea L. Combs
Through July 16
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
6067 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
Directed by Sam Newfield
Restoration World Premiere
Thursday, December 1, at 7:30 pm
Academy Museum — Ted Mann Theater
6067 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
*Doris Berger and Rhea L. Combs, “Regenerating Black Cinema,” in Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971, edited by Berger and Combs (Los Angeles: Academy Museum of Motion Pictures; New York: DelMonico and D.A.P., 2022), 83.
See James A. Snead, “Repetition as a Figure of Black Culture,” in Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures, edited by Russell Ferguson, Martha Gever, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Cornel West (New York: New Museum; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990), 213–230.
From top: Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown in William Selig’s Something Good—Negro Kiss (1898), courtesy of the USC HMH Foundation Moving Picture Image; Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971 installation view, featuring Gary Simmons, Balcony Seating Only (2017) and documentation of the original segregated theater stairway, artwork © Gary Simmons, courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, installation photograph by Joshua White/JW Pictures/Academy Museum Foundation; Sam Newfield, Harlem on the Prairie (1937), still, Herb Jeffries (right), image courtesy Margaret Herrick Library, Los Angeles; Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971 installation view, featuring scene from Carmen Jones (Pearl Bailey, center, as Frankie), installation photograph by Joshua White/JW Pictures/Academy Museum Foundation; “Carmen, Change #1,” Carmen Jones costume sketch for Dorothy Dandridge, costume design by Mary Ann Nyberg, circa 1954, courtesy of the Cinémathèque Française; Melvin Van Peebles, 1971, photograph by Pix/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images, courtesy of the Academy Museum; Harlem on the Prairie poster; Paul Robeson, production still for Emperor Jones (1933), directed by Dudley Murphy, image courtesy of the Academy Museum; Fayard Nichols (left) and Harold Nichols in Stormy Weather (1943), gelatin silver print courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, © Twentieth Century Fox.