Judge Priest (1934)
John Ford Tells It Exactly Like It Wasn't
24 July 2013
I watched this film down to a promise I made to another IMDb member that I would check out at least one film featuring Harry Tenbrook an extremely prolific extra of American cinema in the golden decades of Hollywood . In theory JUDGE PRIEST should be something of a classic being directed by John Ford and was a big box office hit on its release in 1934 . After seeing it I can't help thinking it was popular for all the wrong reasons

Set in Kentucky just after the American Civil War this would have been popular film for a 1934 audience of a certain dress sense , ones who wear white cloaks and hoods probably . The film starts with a black man facing court and some good old Southern boys reminiscing about the War . The black defendant is somewhat portrayed as retarded but being black has a great natural singing voice because ... well he's black . Indeed every black character has natural singing tones and are never happier than when singing their hearts out , so much so you might be forgiven for asking when are these stereotypes getting the vote ? The film ends with a rousing speech by a character lamenting losing the war because the South ran out of resources . This probably wasn't untrue but when you see the white Southern characters they're like the caricatures seen in THE DUKES OF HAZZARD and you'll be puzzled how any of these guys could field an army in the first place being dumb hicks

It's also a film with a misplaced sense of humour . We have one scene where a character takes it upon himself to have a mock conversation by emulating an out of sight black man sounding like British comedian Jim Davidson having a stroke . Certainly it can be classed as amusing but you'll find yourself laughing at the scene rather than with it . It's not surprising Harry Tenbrook appeared in this film uncredited and one wonders why John Ford just didn't ask to be credited as Alan Smithee ?
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