Review: ‘The Green Pastures’

The Green Pastures is a simple, enchanting, audience-captivating all-Negro cinematic fable. The show [by Marc Connelly, suggested by Roark Bradford's Southern sketches Ol' Man Adam an' His Chillun'] made history by touring the hinterland for three years after two years on Broadway.

The Green Pastures is a simple, enchanting, audience-captivating all-Negro cinematic fable. The show [by Marc Connelly, suggested by Roark Bradford’s Southern sketches Ol’ Man Adam an’ His Chillun’] made history by touring the hinterland for three years after two years on Broadway.

Rex Ingram’s glowing personality is a thoroughly satisfying and convincing Lawd. Ingram’s is a yeoman protean contribution, as he also personates Adam and Hezdrel, his images re-created on earth.

The very essence of Green Pastures is the Sabbath school. It’s the Harlem version of the Old Testament, as the pastor word-paints the mood of De Lawd from Genesis to Exodus and beyond.

Oscar Polk as Gabriel – whom De Lawd colloquially addresses as Gabe – is a human and humorous archangel who efficiently and matter-of-factly sees that De Lawed’s will be done, and without the slightest hitches.

Punctuating all the Biblical background are mundane references to gay fishfries, ten cent seegars, generous fishing and plenty of milk-and-honey for the good folks, yet it’s all in fine taste and with due regard to proportions and standards of all races and creeds.

Marc Connelly and William Keighley – the latter the more remarkable in view of his previous specialization in gangster mellers – rate most of the bends for their distinguished transition of the play to the screen.

Frank Wilson’s Moses; George Reed’s Mr Deshee; Edna M. Harris and Al Stokes as Zeba and Cain, a couple of hot potatoes, she a uke-strumming slut and he a fancy man; Ernest Whitman, impressive as the regally arrogant Pharaoh; plus the Hall Johnson choir, are among other stand-outs.

The Green Pastures

Production

Warner. Director Marc Connelly, William Keighley; Producer Henry Blanke; Screenplay Marc Connelly, Sheridan Gibney; Camera Hal Mohr; Editor George Amy; Music Erich Wolfgang Korngold; Art Director Allen Salburg, Stanley Fleischer

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1936. Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Rex Ingram Oscar Polk Eddie Anderson Frank Wilson Abraham Gleaves Myrtle Anderson
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