The Scar of Shame (with live accompaniment)


Featuring a screening-specific live score by: Peter Speer [Modular Synthesizer & Electronics]
Alejandro Acierto [Contrabass Clarinet]

One of four films produced by the Colored Players Film Corporation for the “race movie” audience, The Scar of Shame is a rare attempt to deal with the sensitive issue of skin color and social class within the African-American community. It is important as an example of how black talent worked with white producers in the years when some thought there was money to be made in the “race movie” business. Theatre-owner David Starkman, credited with writing the story, hired a white director and white technicians but worked with an all-black cast.

The central victim, Louise Howard (Lucia Lynn Moses), is molested by her shiftless father Spike and rescued by Alvin Hillyard (Harry Henderson), an aspiring composer and pianist. Hillyard marries the light-skinned Louise to protect her from her father and in doing so lifts her out of the lower class. Soon after the marriage, the father’s gambler friend Eddie Blake (Norman Johnstone) conspires with him to prevent the abduction, and, caught in the gun cross-fire, Louise is wounded in the neck and scarred for life. Alvin, although innocent, goes to prison for the crime, and Louise takes up a life of prostitution.

In this tragic story, Alvin finds a more refined lighter-skinned woman after his escape from jail. When his former wife Louise realizes that he will never return to her, she commits suicide in her candle-lit apartment adjacent to the speakeasy. Her scar would seem to testify to the way internal class strife marks and victimizes the light-skinned mulatta, an important figure in early African-American myth and literature. Key performances are by Lucia Lynn Moses as the tragic Louise and Lawrence Chenault, noted for playing villains in Oscar Micheaux’s films, as Hathaway.

The Experimental Sound Series presents early silent films with live musical accompaniment. The brand-new, screening specific film scores incorporate a combination of composed and improvised music by some of Chicago’s finest experimental and jazz musicians. The “Experimental Sound Series” is co-presented with Experimental Sound Studio, a non-profit, artist-run organization focused on sound in all its exploratory cultural manifestations, including music, sound art, installation, cinema, performing arts, sound poetry, broadcast, new media, and more.

The Scar of Shame
Frank Peregini, 1927, 85 min.

**Introduction and post-film discussion with Sergio Mims**

Black Cinema House
6901 S. Dorchester Ave.