The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994

Book Reviews

As Ossie Davis points out in the foreword, which puts them into personal per-
spective, these films made exclusively for black audiences provide valuable histo-
ry lessons as well as aesthetic experiences. They are an important record of black
culture. Davis tells how he saw Murder in Harlem (1935) as a child and realized
that the black characters in it behaved like the people he knew instead of the
stereotypes he had observed in mainstream movies. For instance, when a black
man discovered a dead body in the film, he responded by calling the police in-
stead of going into "all kinds of conniptions" (p. 6).
Black Cinematic Treasures does not have the depth of insight and scholarship of
the work of a writer such as Thomas Cripps, the author of two superb books,
Black Film as Genre (1978) and Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film,
1900-1942 (1977), and it lacks the detail and thoroughness of the invaluable
reference book by Phyllis Klotman, Frame by Frame: A Black Filmography (1979). It
is nevertheless a readable and accessible book. It does not pretend to be more
than it is, which is a first step in recording what is contained in the Tyler, Texas,
collection. Because it is so readable, it will undoubtedly reach a wide general au-
dience of young people who need to learn about these movies and these film-
makers.
The book also tells the story of how the films were found; the preservation
process they are undergoing; brief biographies of the pioneer filmmakers in the
collection; and information on how the films were produced, distributed, and
exhibited, as well as comments from black artists and scholars about what such
films meant to the black community. There is also a list of independent black
films from 1910 to 1957, and a short bibliography of books about the subject
that covers the years 1910 to 1960.
Wesleyan University JEANINE BASINGER
Hollywood Beauty: Linda Darnell and the American Dream. By Ronald L. Davis. (Nor-
man: University of Oklahoma, 1991. Pp. xv+216. Preface, black-and-white
photographs, chronicle of performances, sources, index. $19.95.)
If the all-too-brief career of Texas-reared cinema goddess Linda Darnell is a
good example, "the American Dream" may be something of a nightmare.
With his biography of Darnell, Southern Methodist University professor Ron
Davis has taken the genre of "movie star bio" out of the realm of fawning buff-
dom and raised it to heights of realistic insight and primary-source research.
The story of fantastically beautiful but pitifully naive girls who went to the
mecca of glamour, fortune, and fame in the 1940s to be exploited, abused, and
finally devoured by the silken meatgrinder is all an all-too-familiar story. But
Davis makes the oft-told tale painfully real and (for us Texans) close to home as
he interviews old neighbors in the Oak Cliff neighborhood, where "Monetta"
Darnell grew up, then traces her to Sunset High School, where she first shone in
assemblies and local dramatics.
As a student at Sunset, Monetta was evidently outspoken about her determina-
tion to be a movie star. It was while she was still a student there that Hollywood's

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117154/. Accessed October 1, 2014.