Arlington, Florida: Norman Studios, 1926-1928. First Edition. Together 4 large color-printed promotional broadsides of equal size. 4 pp. 22" x 14" (unfolded) and 11" x 3.4" (folded to create a multi-paneled mailing brochure). Trifle wear to unfolded specimens (evidence of horizontal fold to "The Flying Ace"), a few short tears along folds of one folded brochure, overall in exceptional state, suitable for exhibition and study. Very good. Item #3878
SCARCE PROMOTIONAL BROADSHEETS ADVERTISING TWO SILENT "RACE FILMS" THAT WERE MARKETED SPECIFICALLY TO AFRICAN-AMERICAN AUDIENCES. We are pleased to offer two unfolded broadsheets, along with two duplicate specimens that were folded to produce multi-paneled brochures that would have been sent to owners of "colored" movie theaters. We are unable to explain how these large "obsolete" truly ephemeral pieces have survived in museum quality condition.
During the Jim Crow and segregated Hollywood era, these so-called "race films" gave role models to African-American audiences, bringing heroes to the big screen. The historical significance of these films cannot be overstated, especially for illiterate African-Americans, of whom only 77 percent could read or write in any language in 1920 as per National Center for Education Statistics. The two films here presented are important. "The Flying Ace" was selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry. "Black Gold" depicts the Freedman's town "Tatums, Oklahoma" and its African-American residents; no copy of this film exists.
These Norman Studios broadsheets are of identical format, and include full-scale reproductions of the lobby cards, numerous photographs showing the actors and scenes from the movies, tips on promotion, reviews, and letters from R.E. Norman to the "colored cinema" owner, writing: "The Norman Studios is the only company making colored pictures that owns and operates it own studio and laboratory."
"Although Norman's work was largely forgotten after his death, his achievements -- as entrepreneur, inventor, businessman, independent roving "home-talent" filmmaker, film developer, and race feature producer -- have finally begun to garner the attention they rightly deserve. In the peak years of early race cinema, he and his fellow race filmmakers [...] constituted a kind of distinct and virtually underground cinema. Through their pioneering pictures, they attempted to reach the black audience that was largely ignored by the major motion picture studios. Despite problems with small budgets and poor distribution channels, they were somehow able to produce and release films that went beyond stereotypical representation and to depict African Americans as a vital presence in American life. Their extraordinary contributions merit Norman and his contemporaries a prominent place in American cinema history." (SOURCE: Norman Studios Online Museum).
Ad 1: "The Flying Ace - The Greatest Airplane Mystery Story Ever Filmed. All Colored Cast." According to the advertising blurb, this is "The first Colored Picture with Real Flying in it, real stunts, loops, parachute jumps, flying upside down, etc." Additionally, the film "is full of good laughs and smashing fights, interspersed judiciously through the six reels." The film starred Lawrence Criner and Kathryn Boyd. "The Flying Ace" is the only one of the Norman Studios-produced "race movies" that is known to have survived, and is still shown at silent film festivals. In 2021, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.
Ad 2: "Black Gold - Thrilling Epic of the Oil Fields with All Colored Cast. One of the True Stories of Living Colored Examples. A Smashing Photo-Play Co-Starring Lawrence Criner and Kathryn Boyd, Original Lafayette Players [...] and the Entire City of Tatums, Okla." Tatums, Oklahoma was a Freedman's town founded in 1895 by Kentucky born Lee and Mary Tatum on land located in the Chickasaw Nation. The synopsis describes John true story of Crisp who brought in three producing oil wells, and the troubles he had with crooked drilling contractors, which was the basis for the present film. No copy of "Black Gold" is known to exist, but the script and camera are held by the Autry National Center in California.