Murder on Lenox Avenue (December, 1941)

Alec Lovejoy in Murder on Lenox Avenue
 

Released in December 1941: (running time 63 minutes) A week in the lives of families living in a Harlem apartment building.

Produced by Arthur Dreifuss

Directed by Arthur Dreifuss

The Actors: Mamie Smith (Hattie), Alberta Perkins (Mercedes, pie seller), Alec Lovejoy (Flivver Johnson, bartender and pianist), Dene Larry (Ola Wilkins), Augustus Smith (Pa Wilkins), Ernie Ransom (Jim Bracton), Edna Mae Harris (Juditha, nightclub singer), Cristola Williams (Rosalia, Hattie's daughter), Sidney Easton (Speed Simmons, orchestra leader), Earl Sydnor (Gregory), Norman Astwood (Mr. Marshall, crooked Better Business League leader), Herman Green (Lomax, Marshall's henchman), George Williams (Montoute), Emily Santos (Emily, showgirl), Flo Lee (Flo, showgirl), Wahneta San (Whaneta, showgirl)

 

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The Loves, Laughs, Life, and Death on Lenox Avenue

Our adventure takes place in and around an apartment building at 119 Lenox Avenue in Harlem. The tenants include a World War One veteran and his young daughter, an aspiring jazz bandleader, a bartender and pianist, three showgirls, a lady who sells pies on the street in front of the building, and a few more vibrant New Yorkers in 1941.

Mamie Smith, as Hattie, will sing at Pa Wilkin’s birthday party, where her pregnant daughter will discover that her baby’s father is going to marry someone else. Mamie Smith was a vaudeville jazz and blues singer who became the first African-American person to record and sell blues music records. In 1920 her record company was threatened with boycott and violence if they recorded a black singer, but they still produced and sold Mamie Smith’s songs, which became extremely popular, opening the door for black performers to make and sell records. By the time she appeared in this film, she was retired from singing, and would pass five years after appearing in this story.

Sidney Easton, who plays bandleader Speed Simmons, was born in Savannah, Georgia. After playing music for a circus, and later a minstrel show, he formed his own band, and began writing and performing his own music. Ethel Waters and Pearl Baily recorded some of his songs, and he performed and composed music for fifty years. Most of his personal papers, writings and manuscripts now reside in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in the New York Public Library.

Black cinema productions from the first years of motion pictures are very rare, and good quality surviving copies are even more rare, so this peek into Harlem apartment life in 1941 is a veritable historic treasure. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn drizzled with plenty of warm melted butter and enjoy the show.

Alberta Perkins
Alberta Perkins
Alberta Perkins, Norman Astwood
Alberta Perkins, Norman Astwood
Alec Lovejoy
Alec Lovejoy
Alec Lovejoy, Edna Mae Harris
Alec Lovejoy, Edna Mae Harris
Alec Lovejoy
Alec Lovejoy
Alec Lovejoy
Alec Lovejoy
Augustus Smith
Augustus Smith
Augustus Smith, Dene Larry
Augustus Smith, Dene Larry
Augustus Smith, Dene Larry
Augustus Smith, Dene Larry
Augustus Smith
Augustus Smith
Cristola Williams
Cristola Williams
Cristola Williams, Ernie Ransom
Cristola Williams, Ernie Ransom
Christola Williams
Christola Williams
Dene Larry
Dene Larry
Dene Larry, Augustus Smith
Dene Larry, Augustus Smith
Dean Larry, Earl Sydnor
Dean Larry, Earl Sydnor
Wahneta San
Wahneta San
Dene Larry, Ernie Ransom
Dene Larry, Ernie Ransom
Dene Larry, Mamie Smith
Dene Larry, Mamie Smith
Edna Mae Harris
Edna Mae Harris
Edna Mae Harris, Alec Lovejoy, Ernie Ransom
Edna Mae Harris, Alec Lovejoy, Ernie Ransom
Edna Mae Harris, Ernie Ransom
Edna Mae Harris, Ernie Ransom
Edna Mae Harris kisses Alec Lovejoy
Edna Mae Harris kisses Alec Lovejoy
Edna Mae Harris
Edna Mae Harris
Emily Santos
Emily Santos
Emily Santos
Emily Santos
Emily Santos
Emily Santos
Ernie Ransom
Ernie Ransom
Ernie Ransom, Alec Lovejoy, Norman Astwood
Ernie Ransom, Alec Lovejoy, Norman Astwood
Ernie Ransom, Augustus Smith
Ernie Ransom, Augustus Smith
Ernie Ransom
Ernie Ransom
Flo Lee
Flo Lee
George Williams
George Williams
George Williams, Augustus Smith
George Williams, Augustus Smith
Herman Green
Herman Green
Herman Green
Herman Green
Mamie Smith
Mamie Smith
Mamie Smith, Sidney Easton
Mamie Smith, Sidney Easton
Mamie Smith, Sidney Easton
Mamie Smith, Sidney Easton
Norman Astwood
Norman Astwood
Norman Astwood, Herman Green
Norman Astwood, Herman Green
Norman Astwood
Norman Astwood
Sidney Easton
Sidney Easton
Sidney Easton, Alec Lovejoy
Sidney Easton, Alec Lovejoy
Sidney Easton, Alberta Perkins
Sidney Easton, Alberta Perkins
Sidney Easton
Sidney Easton
Sidney Easton
Sidney Easton
Wahneta San
Wahneta San
Wahneta San, Emily Santos, Flo Lee
Wahneta San, Emily Santos, Flo Lee