Body and Soul (1925)
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Written and directed by independent auteur Oscar Micheaux, the low-budget silent film Body and Soul is significant as the film debut of actor Paul Robeson. He leads the largely African-American cast as the Reverend Isaiah T. Jenkins, a minister who lies, cheats, and steals. He's really an escaped convict and con artist posing as a Reverend. Even though he takes his flask with him to church, his followers believe in him. An upstanding member of the congregation, Martha Jane (Julia Theresa Russell), encourages her daughter, Isabelle (Mercedes Gilbert), to accept him as a suitor. Meanwhile, Jenkins' poor but honest twin brother Sylvester (also Robeson) also courts Isabelle as well. Inevitably, the bad twin Jenkins steals Isabelle's life savings and she flees to Atlanta. The National Board of Review disapproved of a clergyman as an evil character and Micheaux was running out of money, so the conclusion is a tacked-on "it was all just a dream" ending. … More
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Critic Reviews for Body and Soul
One of the revelations of this 1924 feature by pioneer black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux is that, in contrast to the faltering technique and garbled film syntax of his sound pictures, he was stylistically assured as a silent director.
Robeson radiates the roguish charm and dangerous looming ferocity of a master con man with a scary streak of violence. Like his singing, Robeson's acting has stature. It is larger than life.
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