Seeds of Disunion Film Series: Judge Priest


Judge Priest (John Ford, 1934) was adapted from a collection of short stories written by southern newspaperman Irvin S. Cobb, with Cobb’s “Old Judge Priest” portrayed inimitably by the beloved American humorist and actor Will Rogers. Judge Priest was the first of three films to pair Rogers memorably with controversial African American comedian Lincoln “Stepin Fetchit” Perry, and to feature an onscreen relationship that some film scholars have cited as the precursor to modern interracial buddy movies like The Defiant Ones, 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon, and 16 Blocks. Stepin Fetchit’s performance is the very essence of white fantasies of blackness; his slow, shiftless, black languor and confusion simultaneously raise questions about the impact of racial stereotype as well as about how blackness and whiteness define and delimit each other in popular entertainment. Join the post-screening conversation with film historians Jacqueline Stewart (University of Chicago professor of Cinema & Media Studies, BCH curator) and Miriam Petty (Northwestern University, assistant professor of Radio/TV/Film).

(John Ford, 1934, 80 min)

Seeds of Disunion: Classics in Black Stereotypy Film Series On the 100th anniversary of D. W. Griffith’s epic The Birth of a Nation (1915), Black Cinema House presents a series of important films in the history of Black representation that, due to their notorious reputations, many contemporary viewers have never actually watched, certainly not in their entirety.