Harlem on the Prairie


46m 1937

Film Details

Also Known As
Bad Man of Harlem
Genre
Western
Release Date
Dec 9, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Associated Features, Inc.
Distribution Company
Associated Features, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Victorville, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
46m
Film Length
6 reels

Synopsis

Doc Clayburn, formerly of the Ross outlaw gang, reformed his criminal ways when the group was nearly wiped out after robbing $50,000 in gold. Doc and his daughter Carolina now run a traveling medicine wagon with a minstrel show. Carolina convinces Doc to return to the area of the theft to return the gold, which he had hidden twenty years before, to its owners and ease his conscience. While escaping the law, outlaw Wolf Cain and his men recognize Doc, but he is protected by Jeff Kincaid, a wandering cowboy. After Jeff's departure, Wolf's men return, determined to get a map to where the gold is hidden. A fight ensues, and Doc is killed. Jeff, working for the sheriff, arrives in time for the dying Doc to beg him to return the gold and take care of Carolina. Jeff goes searching for the gold with Mistletoe and Crawfish, two amusing camp helpers, but they are trailed. Both Mistletoe and Crawfish become afraid while searching in a cave. Finding the treasure, they defeat two of the outlaws. However, upon returning, Jeff learns that Carolina has been abducted and is being held as ransom for the gold. Jeff surprises Wolf in his hideout, while Mistletoe and Crawfish lure his henchmen toward the sheriff. After returning the gold, Jeff and Carolina drive off together in the medicine wagon.

Film Details

Also Known As
Bad Man of Harlem
Genre
Western
Release Date
Dec 9, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Associated Features, Inc.
Distribution Company
Associated Features, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Victorville, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
46m
Film Length
6 reels

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

According to the Variety review, the film's title was switched to Bad Man of Harlem for the first Broadway run. A January 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that the film was "the first 'all colored' picture to play on Broadway in a first run house." Some contemporary sources credit Mantan Moreland with the story. The songs "Harlem on the Prarie" and "Romance in the Rain" were performed by Herbert Jeffries and won praise from critics. Critics' estimates of the film's budget vary from under $20,000 to $50,000. Variety, which mistakenly listed Spencer Williams' name as William Spencer, notes that this was the first black musical Western. In reviews, Maceo Sheffield is identified as a former Los Angeles policeman who purchased several nightclubs along Central Avenue in Los Angeles. Connie Harris was a nightclub entertainer along the same circuits, and Time notes that she worked in the Paradise Café in Yuma, AZ. The picture was intended principally for the eight hundered existing black theaters in the United States. Producer Buell, according to reviews, was to make between four and six similar films. However, the three follow-up black musical westerns with Jeffries were made by Richard Kahn for Hollywood Productions: The Bronze Buckaroo, Harlem Rides the Range and Two Gun Man from Harlem (see below). Associated Features, Inc. was originally named Lincoln Pictures, Inc. The picture was filmed at N. B. Murray's black dude ranch near Victorville, CA, according to modern sources.
       In a letter in the NAACP Collection at the Library of Congress, writer and actor Flournoy E. Miller asked the organization's help to have people "reserve criticisms" concerning the film. Miller wrote that "colored motion pictures are in an experimental stage due to the fact that you can only interest independent capital. I think that criticism of these pictures should be constructive rather than destructive.... major studios flatly refuse to give colored people a decent part or to produce a first class colored picture." Concerning the origin of the idea to do a Western with African-American cowboys, Miller stated, "why shouldn't we glorify Bill Pickett, Simeon Sheffield and other Negro ropers, bull doggers and bronco busters who inhabit Texas? We got the idea from a rodeo where a young Negro boy, Bob Scott, stole the show. In answer to our inquiries, Bob Scott told us that there were many more such colored boys who are adept riders and ropers."