In a juke joint, sharecropper Zeke falls for a beautiful dancer, Chick, but she's only setting him up for a rigged craps game. He loses $100, the money he got for the sale of his family's entire cotton crop. His brother Spunk is mortally wounded in the shoot-out which follows. Zeke goes away but returns as Brother Zekiel the preacher. His forceful preaching draws the faithful in large numbers. Even Chick wants to be saved. Zekiel has asked the pretty Missy Rose to marry him, but Chick can still cast a spell over the preacher...Written by
King Vidor had been hoping to make the film for several years, and jumped at the chance to make it with the advent of sound. He so wanted to produce the picture that he offered to give up his salary. See more »
When fighting for the revolver after the craps game seven shots are fired from a six shooter. See more »
I probably don't need to go into the historical facts about this movie or the plot, as this had probably been expunded in numerous other comments. Personally I think that Hallelujah is a beautiful and powerful film, sympathetic to African Americans, and I think it's remarkable that it was produced at all.
Hallelujah is a huge production, with hundreds of extras. The cast was made up of mostly unknowns. Cast members like Fally Belle McKnight and Victoria Spivey apparently never made any other films, and leads Daniel L. Haynes and Nina Mae McKinney were obviously getting started. The cast is very good, I thought, especially Spivey (a veteran of the stage) as Rose. Haynes is okay in the beginning, seeming a little uneven in his role as well-meaning rogue Zeke, but the final scenes allow him to prove the commanding presence he could muster as an screen presence. Nina Mae McKinney is a power-house. A short, curvy beauty with an interesting voice, she has something of a young Myrna Loy. In fact, I just recently saw a still from a Loy film called The Squall where Loy looks an awful lot like McKinney.
Movies like Hallelujah are an acquired taste. When I first saw it, I was distracted by the crudeness of the sound, the jagged editing and the overall unevenness of the movie. Sure, two or three years later, Hollywood was turning out glossy productions like Red Dust and Blond Venus, with highly polished editing, clear sound and more mobile camera-work, but this is 1929. Sound film-making techniques had yet to be smoothed out. The crinkles of a young process actually add charm to this film, if you know to expect them.
I'll admit as well that, when I first saw Hallelujah, I was irritated by the voices. There's a lot of screeching from the women, and a great deal of mumbling as well. A second viewing, though, allows one to see past these "irritating" aspects and appreciate the voices for what they are. This way, Fanny Belle McKnight's agonized cries of sorrow and her singing the children to sleep is more touching than it is grating.
It's hard to know what else to say about the film. For all it's shortcomings, it's a touching film, lyrical even. I think it's a wonderful production, and I doubt it would not have been made much differently by a black director. Plus, one must agree, King Vidor was a far better craftsman than Oscar Micheaux. 9/10
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