Thursday, June 13, 2013

Movie of the Week: Melancholy Dame (Review)


A nightclub owner's wife, jealous of his attentions to his star singer, schemes to get her fired. [IMDb]

This comedy short isn't exactly a "knee-slapper", but it is still quite delightful to watch--I got some chuckles out of it. The storyline wasn't new or unique, but it did have some interesting plot points to keep you entertained.

An irritable Jonquil Williams (Evelyn Preer) with her husband, Permanent (Edward Thompson)

I really enjoyed watching Evelyn Preer in this movie. It's hard to find her work online--I've only seen her in the silent Micheaux film, Within Our Gates and I've heard her song "It Takes a Good Woman to Keep a Good Man at Home". After watching Melancholy Dame, I immediately realized just how versatile and multi-talented Ms. Preer was. She's definitely a criminally unsung talent. I got a big kick out of hearing her speaking voice for the first time, too.

 It was also nice to see Mrs. Preer's real-life husband, actor Edward Thompson--he plays his meek (and often jittery) role with ease. I'm anxious to see more of the Thompsons' individual and collaborative work. 

Permanent's in some hot water with Webster Dill (Spencer Williams). 

Young Spencer Williams (previously a sound technician for the Christie Film Company) doesn't get much shine throughout the film, but this is purposely done to build up to the funny conclusion! Playing his wife is the captivating Roberta Hyson...

Sappho Dill (Roberta Hyson) and Permanent having a talk. 

Melancholy Dame was Roberta Hyson's first film, but she stole the show with her commanding presence and flawless delivery. She reminds me a lot of Erika Alexander and her character "Maxine Shaw" on Living Single

The one and only problem I have with Melancholy Dame is its (torturous) dialogue! As was the case for a lot of "all-Negro" pictures (or for black characters in general), the African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) was terribly over-exaggerated. Listening to the dialogue nearly drove me crazy!!! 

Sappho knows something that Jonquil doesn't...

Other than that, this short film is fun to watch and an important piece of history. Click the link below to check it out!

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