4/11 — UTC at the Movies (2)

  All but one of the readings below provide contexts for trying to see Universal's Uncle Tom's Cabin through the eyes of Americans in the late 1920s. The last item will take you from the archive's primary materials to an electronic essay I wrote for its INTERPRET section, and give us a way to look for Stowe's story in films from our times.

  • Universal Publicity Notices   By "Universal" I mean these press releases were prepared by Universal Pictures' publicity department. They are in fact much more regional than universal, and will give us a way to talk about how anxious the studio was about a negative reaction by white southerners.

  • Pollard Papers Stills   These 50 stills provide some access to the scenes that were cut at various times after the film had been shot.

  • Reviews   I haven't tracked down any southern reviews, but the 16 here give us a sense of how the film played on both coasts (where it premiered) and in Detroit (it went to the midwest next, in a version edited for "national" release). It did show in the south, and some of the articles below provide accounts of Southern responses to the film, but if any of you want to look for newspaper reviews in places like Memphis and Atlanta, please share with me and the rest of the class whatever you find.

  • Notices   By the second half of the 1920s the nation's preoccupation with "Hollywood" and the studio publicity machines that catered to it were well-established. Here are some of the (to me) more telling newspaper articles about the Universal film — though if you want to read through all 75 of the articles the archive contains, feel free to do so with the link above:
          Negro Actor for Uncle Tom Role   Hollywood(?) News   (21 May 1926)
          UTC Suitable for Southerners to See   Unidentified Newspaper   (1926)
          Colored Player to be Replaced   Hollywood(?) News   (9 September 1926)
          Black Harmony   Los Angeles Record   (9 October 1926)
          Aged Slaves Play Roles in UTC   Hollywood(?) News   (13 October 1926)
          Revival Meeting Breaks Up Movie   Hollywood(?) News   (16 October 1926)
          "Uncle Tom" Gets Walloped   The Memphis Scimitar   (5 November 1926)
          "Uncle Tom" Heard From   Hollywood(?) News   (18 November 1926)
          "Pollard takes a pickaninny..."   Exhibitors' Herald   (11 December 1926)
          Introducing Uncle Tom   Universal Weekly   (5 March 1927)
          [Pollard on Stowe's Novel]   Screen Magazine   (August 1927)
          [Indiana Indorses UTC]   Indianapolis Times   (1926-1927)
          [UTC at Central]   Variety   (May-December 1927)
          "Uncle Tom" Cut   Variety   (23 November 1927)
          Ten "Uncle Tom" Shows   Motion Picture News   (25 February 1928)
          "Uncle Tom's Cabin" Takes the Test   Weekly Film Review   (28 April 1928)
          "Uncle Tom" Is Barred in Birmingham   Exhibitors' Herald   (November? 1928)
          The "Revised" Uncle Tom's Cabin   Confederate Veteran   (June 1929)

  • Exhibitors' Promotional Handbook   Probably nothing this can tell you about the materialism of Hollywood — yesterday, today and forever — will be news to you, but I'll be surprised if you're not surprised by at least some of the promotional "stunts" described on pages 6-7 and 8-9.

  • Souvenir Book   This was almost certainly sold in the lobby (price 25¢). This link takes you to images of the book's pages, which you should look at. But please also read the program's three pages describing "The Story of the Movie" (i.e. the plot; it starts of page [7]), and producer Carl Laemmle's concluding note (on page [20]). You can access a transcription of the program's text HERE.

  • OPTIONAL: Grosset & Dunlap movie edition   If you want to bring the story full circle, back to the novel that launched it, you can look at how stills from the movie were used to illustrate Stowe's text in this 1927 edition of the book. The illustrations include one scene of Topsy that was also cut from the film.

  • OPTIONAL: Promotional Postcard   I brought this to class when we started. There are two good reasons to look at it: to see how early movies appropriated the kinds of promotional devices 19th century play and circus companies used, and to see how audiences were given a schedule of scenes in the movie, so that they not only knew ahead of time what would happen, but when.

  • Tomming Today   This is my deliberately provocative attempt to suggest that, while Hollywood has not made a "major motion picture" out of Uncle Tom's Cabin since 1927, it still relies heavily and pervasively on Stowe's story and its archetypes to connect with America's racial fantasies. See what you think.