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Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of America's First Black Filmmaker Paperback – Bargain Price, June 17, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At a time when Hollywood was so white that conditions would have had to be improved one hundredfold before it could even qualify as Jim Crow, Micheaux (1884–1951) was forced to pursue his creative ambitions as an independent filmmaker in the race picture market. McGilligan, the author of several acclaimed biographies of film directors (George Cukor: A Double Life), returns again and again to the image of Micheaux as a lone wolf, churning out two or three pictures a year at his peak while barely managing to stay ahead of creditors. And it wasn't just the all-black casts that put his films outside the mainstream; the stories often ran afoul of censors and critics for their uncompromising portrayals of contemporary African-American society. McGilligan sketches a crucial portrait of his subject's life before motion pictures, including an attempt to work a South Dakota homestead and a failed marriage that would provide the impulse for much of his creative output. The story isn't always as detailed as readers might like, but that's due to the limited available historical record. McGilligan does a fine job of reaffirming Micheaux's significance beyond the appreciation of cineastes.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The author of George Cukor (1991) and Alfred Hitchcock (2003) here limns a far less renowned but equally compelling figure: Oscar Micheaux, foremost director of race films, featuring all-black casts and aimed at black audiences during the era of segregation. After stints as a Pullman porter and homestead farmer, Micheaux, the son of freed slaves, penned autobiographical novels. When Hollywood wouldn't buy his stories, he took up filmmaking in 1919. The quality of his efforts was restricted by financial constraints and the limitations of his talents (McGilligan implies he was more skilled at marketing movies than at making them), yet they shed valuable light on the harsh realities of African American life. Despite thorough research, gaps remain in McGilligan's account. But then, two-thirds of Micheaux's 40-plus films are lost, and the rest survive only as truncated by censorship. Micheaux's career began to fizzle, along with race films, in the late 1930s, and he died in obscurity in 1951. Rediscovered decades later, he is now considered, as McGilligan puts it, the Jackie Robinson of American film. Flagg, Gordon --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; First Harper Perennial Edition edition (June 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060731400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060731403
  • ASIN: B005FOIE18
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,617,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Martin J. Keenan on June 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
McGilligen's "deep background" research pays off as his prose brings life to the mysterious life of Oscar Micheaux. McGilligen's knowledge of film history and movie directors brings historical context and makes Micheaux's accomplishments seem all the more amazing. Paced like a novel, the book is sprinkled liberally with Micheaux's own words, and really seems to capture the man. I certainly hope this book introduces Micheaux to a new generation of readers.
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Format: Hardcover
Having successfully chronicled such outsiders behind the camera as Cukor and Lang, celebs with secrets like Eastwood and Nicholson, and iconic geniuses like Hitchcock, I must say that I was surprised when I picked up this latest from the master film historian becuase I knew absolutetly nothing about the book's subject, a deficiency I am afraid that I share with the vast majority of American film-goers.
Now thanks to McGilligan's mastery I a aware of the "great and only" Oscar Micheaux who seems to have gotten the short shrift of American History in much the same manner as Crispus Attucks and Danile Hale Williams.
McGilligan charts the almost unchartable as this self-made man moves from porter to homesteader to author to film-maker, mixing the economics and art of the early film industry in an effort to supply entertainment and Art to an audience neglected by the major studios.
Filled with documentation, numerous name walk-ons, and insightful criticisms one is left with only one question after reading this book : how could Oscar Micheaux have been so neglected by both the public eye and history? ... and the fact that that question is raised is all to the credit of McGilligan's work.
BRAVO Patrick McGilligan - you've done it again!
Please try to write faster.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yikes - I thought I'd reviewed this some time back. In any case, this is a fascinating, thoughtful, well-researched and movingly written biography of film pioneer Micheaux. I confess to knowing next to nothing about the man, his career, or films prior having my interest piqued and then satisfied by this book, whose biography of Hitchcock is also superior. In short, this is a first-rate life of a fascinating and multi-faceted life. Film-making was only the half of it. If you have any interest in early American film or early 20th Century US cultural / social history, you find much here to reward your reading.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In spite of the social climate in which he lived, his lack of funds, and his lack of professional training, Oscar Micheaux managed to find ways to get his projects to market. He's a role model for unrelenting determination and entrepreneurship. How else would a black man from southern Illinois in the early 1900's make it as a farmer (in South Dakota, no less!), an author, and a film maker? True, his films may not have aged well, and he's not in the same league as directors like the DeMilles or Spielbergs, but the fact that he did what he did, when he did it, stands above the others. The book's author, Patrick McGilligan, skillfully weaves together various sources that flesh out Micheaux's work ethic and sometimes hectic life. With that said, I did get a little bogged down with all the details about Micheaux's films. Each discussed film seemed to encounter the same cycle - scramble for money, shoot fast and cheap, hype the release, fight censors and distributors, repeat. However, repetition aside, for me, the take-away about Micheaux's life is that if you truly want to accomplish a goal, you will find a way!
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Format: Hardcover
Oscar Micheaux was a Ground-breaking Film-Maker who paved the way for the Likes of Melvoin Van Peoples,Ossie Davis Jr, Gordon Parks,Spike Lee, John Singleton and other Highly Creative African-American film-Makers that carried on the tradition that was set by Micheaux. Patrick Mcgilligan does a Great job at speaking on the Independence of Oscar Micheaux's creativity. a great job of talking and speaking on Micheaux's Creativity. this Book is a Great introduction for a New Generation just discovering the Great works of Oscar Micheaux. a Must read and have.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There's no strong style in this book, very straightforward. It's clear the author is a big Micheaux fan but is not afraid to be critical when necessary. Recommended for Micheaux fans, but I was hoping for more insight into the film industry as a whole during the early 20th century instead of just an account of his life.
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