Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of America's First Black Filmmaker

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9780060731403: Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of America's First Black Filmmaker

Micheaux's saga is unique among Hollywood backstories. The son of freed slaves, he grew up in the homesteading communities of South Dakota. After working as a Pullman porter, he was inspired by Jack London to write fiction, and soon began an entrepreneurial career successfully publishing a series of his own autobiographical novels. Then, in 1919, he formed his own film production company after Hollywood failed to bid high enough for film rights to his stories. He would go on to produce or direct twenty-two silent and fifteen sound films in his lifetime, becoming the king of the "race cinema" industry at a time before black-produced films could be shown in white-owned theaters.Part visionary, part raffish Barnum-like showman, Micheaux would buck the odds throughout his life. He made a fortune and lost it again, launching repeated con games that were followed by public arrests and bankruptcies. He also eagerly took credit for the work of others - including his unsung-heroine wife; in his desperate later years, as McGilligan reveals here for the first time, he even sunk to plagiarising his final novel.

In this searching exploration, McGilligan tracks down long-lost financial records, unpublished letters, and unmarked pauper's graves, pinpointing his birthplace, his tangled personal life, the circumstances of his tragic death. The result is an epic that bridges a fascinating period in American and cultural history.

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