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Judge Priest (1934)
Great Black actors in bit parts
I love old movies and was looking forward to seeing my first Will Rogers movie. However, this film is an embarrassment with decent actors struggling to overcome a corn-pone plot. The only reason to watch this creaking antique is to catch a glimpse of Hattie McDaniel and Stepin Fetchit who provide the "comic" relief. As Ms. McDaniel said, better to play the maid than to be one. She and Will Rogers were apparently actually good friends in real life, something which makes the movie's depiction of the happy, ignorant, thieving "darkies" doubly painful.
The plot is archaic not just because it depicts former slaves happily singing "My Old Kentucky Home" as they steal the white folks's food. It is based on a story that celebrates the Confederacy and its soldiers, with Will Rogers as a former soldier (now a judge). It ends with a triumphant march through town of the Confederate veterans on Memorial Day. Although Rogers mentions in passing that he's saved Stepin Fetchit from a lynching at some point, it's done as a humorous throw away line. I really think movies like this should be seen more often: they are an excellent reminder of the world as it was not so long ago and how grateful we should be that it has passed away.