Minstrel Man


1h 9m 1944

Film Details

Release Date
Aug 1, 1944
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 15 Jul 1944
Production Company
PRC Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Producers Releasing Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 9m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,996ft

Synopsis

Over the years, minstrel singer Dixie Boy Johnson has risen from the boards of vaudeville to the lights of Broadway. On the night that Dixie is to open in his own show, Minstrel Man , his beloved wife Caroline goes into labor with their first child. Dixie's producer, Lew Dunn, insists that Dixie go on with the show rather than comfort his wife at the hospital, and when Dixie steps off the stage, he learns that Caroline died shortly after giving birth to a baby girl. Shattered by his loss, Dixie abruptly closes the show, entrusts his daughter, whom he has named Caroline, to his friends, May and Lasses White, and travels to Europe. Five years later, Dixie returns to New York and is warmly welcomed back by his audience. When he goes to reclaim his daughter, however, May castigates him for abandoning the girl and informs him that Caroline believes that she and Lasses are her parents. Remorseful over his neglect of Caroline, Dixie determines to leave the city and asks his agent, Bill Evans, to find him an out-of-town booking. Dixie travels to Havana, but one night, when he is asked to sing the song he wrote for his wife, he breaks into tears and runs offstage. Deciding that it is time to return home, Dixie books passage on a steamer bound for New York. When the ship sinks, Dixie is listed among the casualties. Blaming herself for Dixie's death, May finally tells Caroline the truth about her parentage. When Dixie reads the report of his death in the paper, he resolves to disappear and assumes the name Jack Carter. Years later, Caroline celebrates her fifteenth birthday with a party and invites Lew to the event, hoping to convince him to produce a minstrel show on Broadway. Impressed by Caroline's prodigious talent, Lew decides to revive Minstrel Man with Caroline starring as "Dixie Girl Johnson." Dixie, meanwhile, is playing the piano and singing for tips in a shabby San Francisco nightclub. One night, Bill, who has been searching for Dixie, appears at the club to tell him about the revival of Minstrel Man . Hungry for a percentage, Bill reminds Dixie that he still owns the show and urges him to return to New York and seize ownership of the production from Lew. Dixie arrives in New York just as the show has completed rehearsals and begins to have doubts about creating problems for the production. On opening night, Dixie is standing backstage when Caroline, wearing blackface, asks him to help hook up her dress. After Caroline takes the stage, May notices Dixie and asks his forgiveness. As Caroline sings the song that her father made famous, Dixie changes his mind about stopping the show and shakes hands with Lew. When May and Lew insist that he stay for the end of the performance, Dixie applies his blackface and joins Caroline onstage for the finale.

Film Details

Release Date
Aug 1, 1944
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 15 Jul 1944
Production Company
PRC Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Producers Releasing Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 9m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,996ft

Award Nominations

Best Score

1944

Best Song

1944

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Hollywood Reporter news items yield the following information about this production: Veteran minstrel comic Lee "Lasses" White was hired to assist in the making of the film, as well as appear in it. The production was shut down for over a month when director Wallace Fox and actress Gerra Young, who originally portrayed the role of the teenage "Caroline" became ill. In mid-February 1944, Young contracted chicken pox, thus delaying the shooting for several weeks. In early Mar, when the Board of Health refused to allow Young to perform any dance scenes because it felt the exertion might cause her to have a relapse, the studio replaced her with Judy Clark. At that time, all the musical scoring had to be scrapped because it had been pitched to Young's voice. As a result of the delay and necessary re-shooting, the insurance firm Lloyd's of London was forced to pay PRC $150,000 in losses incurred from Young's illness. The insurance company then refused to insure anyone under the age of eighteen. When production began again in mid-March 1944, Joseph H. Lewis took over direction from Fox, who had fallen ill with the flu. Binnie Barnes, who had been cast as "May White", had to leave the film because the production delays conflicted with her previous commitments. Although a 28 January Hollywood Reporter production chart lists William Frawley in the cast, he does not appear in the released print. That production chart also credits Jackson Rose with photography, but the extent of his contribution to the released film has not been determined. Although a Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Chuy Reyes and his band were to appear in the film, their participation in the released film has not been confirmed. In a letter written by producer Leon Fromkess in 1969, the producer stated that director Edgar Ulmer began principal photography on the film, but after four or five days of production, the direction was turned over to Lewis. Ulmer then was assigned to direct the stage sequences, according to Fromkess. The film received Academy Award nominations in the Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture) and Music (Song-"Remember Me to Carolina") categories.