The Golden Dawn

In contrast to the sincere paternalism of Hearts In Dixie, this outrageously racist musical presents a more typical image of the racial stereotypes which dominated the films of the period. Based on a musical by Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach, The Golden Dawn was originally filmed in color, but exists today only in black and white prints. The setting is British East Africa, where, as Thomas Cripps notes, “far from resenting their colonial status, the blacks rest easy in ‘peaceful subjection' under the heel of the black matriarch, Mooda; a black overseer, Shep, who wields his whip as a scepter; and Dawn, the Albino priestess - the triune surrogates for European forces.” What happens in this situation must be seen and heard to be believed, and, for those in a moral position to appreciate its unintentional comedy, enjoyed. Noah Beery, in magnificent voice (and the blackest of blackface) plays the villain Shep, in what William K. Everson considers “literally a sound extension of Walter Long's Gus in The Birth Of A Nation.”

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