Hallelujah (1929)

109 mins | Drama | 20 August 1929

Director:

King Vidor

Writer:

Wanda Tuchock

Cinematographer:

Gordon Avil

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

According to a production directory in the 9 Mar 1929 Exhibitors Herald-World, the starting date for Hallelujah was 16 Oct 1928.
       The 23 Feb 1929 Motion Picture News reported that King Vidor spent three years trying to convince M-G-M that a story about African-American life could have box-office appeal. After being turned down, Vidor approached Nicholas M. Schenck, head of Loew’s, Inc. Vidor reportedly agreed to defer his salary until Hallelujah was completed, and would receive a percentage of the grosses if the film was a success. With M-G-M’s participation, Vidor began production.
       The 26 Sep 1928 Var announced Hallelujah as the forthcoming “All Negro” production directed by King Vidor for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M-G-M). Vidor, who wrote the original story, planned to travel to Chicago, IL, and New York City to select the African-American cast members, after his search in Los Angeles, CA, reportedly proved fruitless. The 1 Oct 1928 Exhibitors Daily Review stated that Vidor had arrived in NY to conduct screen and sound tests. On 6 Oct 1928, Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World indicated that King Vidor was currently in Chicago and would soon depart to a Southern plantation for exterior filming. By 15 Oct 1928, the director was en route to Memphis, TN, according to that day’s Exhibitors Daily Review, which announced the casting of Daniel L. Haynes and Honey Brown in the leading roles. Additional cast members included recording artist Victoria Spivey and Everett McGarrity, who was the only actor hired in Chicago. Haynes, Brown, and Spivey were discovered at Harlem theaters and nightclubs in New ... More Less

According to a production directory in the 9 Mar 1929 Exhibitors Herald-World, the starting date for Hallelujah was 16 Oct 1928.
       The 23 Feb 1929 Motion Picture News reported that King Vidor spent three years trying to convince M-G-M that a story about African-American life could have box-office appeal. After being turned down, Vidor approached Nicholas M. Schenck, head of Loew’s, Inc. Vidor reportedly agreed to defer his salary until Hallelujah was completed, and would receive a percentage of the grosses if the film was a success. With M-G-M’s participation, Vidor began production.
       The 26 Sep 1928 Var announced Hallelujah as the forthcoming “All Negro” production directed by King Vidor for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M-G-M). Vidor, who wrote the original story, planned to travel to Chicago, IL, and New York City to select the African-American cast members, after his search in Los Angeles, CA, reportedly proved fruitless. The 1 Oct 1928 Exhibitors Daily Review stated that Vidor had arrived in NY to conduct screen and sound tests. On 6 Oct 1928, Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World indicated that King Vidor was currently in Chicago and would soon depart to a Southern plantation for exterior filming. By 15 Oct 1928, the director was en route to Memphis, TN, according to that day’s Exhibitors Daily Review, which announced the casting of Daniel L. Haynes and Honey Brown in the leading roles. Additional cast members included recording artist Victoria Spivey and Everett McGarrity, who was the only actor hired in Chicago. Haynes, Brown, and Spivey were discovered at Harlem theaters and nightclubs in New York City.
       The 17 Oct 1928 Var reported that nearly thirty African-American actors were signed to the project, and would join King Vidor that week in Tennessee, where he began filming background scenes the previous week. Shooting was anticipated to continue for a month in the South before returning to M-G-M Studios in Culver City, CA, for interiors. James Stacy was listed as assistant director, but he does not appear to have remained with the production through its completion. The Dixie Jubilee Singers, conducted by Eva Jessye, were hired to sing spirituals in the film. Lulubelle Wiseman was listed amongst the cast, but did not appear in the picture. Several traditional Negro spirituals are used throughout the film, including "Goin' Home" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." Additionally, Irving Berlin wrote two original songs for Hallelujah.
       According to the 27 Oct 1928 Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, the picture would be produced with partial sound, using M-G-M’s Movietone technology.
       The 22 Nov 1928 Exhibitors Daily Review reported that filming had completed in the South, and Vidor was currently on his way to CA.
       A 12 Jan 1929 Motion Picture News news item announced that Nina Mae McKinney was hired to replace Honey Brown in the lead female role.
       The 2 Feb 1929 Motion Picture News indicated that production was still underway at the newly renovated M-G-M Studios in Culver City. After seeing the picture “shaping up so well,” M-G-M executives deemed that “full dialogue should be added,” prompting Vidor to reshoot interiors to accommodate for sound, according to the 16 Feb 1929 Motion Picture News. The 23 Feb 1929 Motion Picture News noted that principal photography was expected to be completed within ten days.
       The Feb 1929 Photoplay included a photograph showing scenes being filmed on the Mississippi River, and a news story in the Feb 1929 Motion Picture Classic listed Birmingham, AL, as an additional location.
       The 23 Mar 1929 Motion Picture News announced that the picture would be promoted with a trailer featuring sound and titles. Three months later, the 29 Jun 1929 Exhibitors Herald-World stated that both a sound and a silent version of the film would be produced. However, it is unclear whether or not a silent version was released.
       The 14 Aug 1929 Var announced that the world premiere would be held on 20 Aug 1929 in New York City simultaneously at two venues, the Embassy Theatre on Broadway, and at the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem.
       The 25 Aug 1929 FD review lauded that King Vidor had “succeeded admirably” in portraying a cross-section of Southern African American lives, and commended his presentation as bearing a “stamp of authenticity.” The 28 Aug 1929 Var review deemed the picture “an artistic success,” and noted the “stirring” beauty of the photography.
       Var printed three reviews of the film on the same day, one based on the New York City premiere, another based on a showing before an African-American audience at the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem, and another by a female staff writer to portray a “woman’s angle.”
       Hallelujah was voted one of the Ten Best Pictures of 1929 by a FD poll, as announced in its 7 Feb 1930 issue. King Vidor received an Academy Award nomination for his work on the film, at the first Academy Awards ceremony held in 1929. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Exhibitors Daily Review
1 Oct 1928
p. 2.
Exhibitors Daily Review
15 Oct 1928
p. 4.
Exhibitors Daily Review
22 Nov 1928
p. 4.
Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World
6 Oct 1928
p. 46.
Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World
27 Oct 1928
p. 39.
Exhibitors Herald-World
29 Jun 1929
p. 130.
Exhibitors Herald-World
9 Mar 1929
p. 41.
Film Daily
7 Feb 1930
p. 1.
Film Daily
25 Aug 1929
p. 8.
Film Spectator
2 Nov 1929
pp. 4-5.
Film Spectator
15 Feb 1930
pp. 20-22.
Motion Picture Classic
Feb 1929
p. 63.
Motion Picture News
12 Jan 1929
p. 138.
Motion Picture News
2 Feb 1929
p. 354B.
Motion Picture News
16 Feb 1929
p. 497.
Motion Picture News
23 Feb 1929
p. 547.
Motion Picture News
23 Mar 1929
p. 895.
New York Times
21 Aug 1929
p. 33.
Photoplay
Feb 1929
p. 86.
Time
16 Dec 1929
p. 58.
Variety
26 Sep 1928
p. 7.
Variety
17 Oct 1928
p. 4, 20.
Variety
14 Aug 1929
p. 4.
Variety
28 Aug 1929
p. 18, 31.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents
A King Vidor production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
COSTUMES
SOUND
Rec eng
SOURCES
SONGS
"Waiting At The End Of The Road" and "Swanee Shuffle," music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
20 August 1929
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 20 August 1929
Production Date:
began 16 October 1928
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Copyright Date:
3 September 1929
Copyright Number:
LP652
Physical Properties:
Sound
Movietone
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Sound, also silent
Also si; 6,579 ft.
Duration(in mins):
109
Length(in feet):
9,711
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Zeke, a black tenant farmer, takes the family cotton crop to market and sells it for nearly one hundred dollars. Chick, a dance hall temptress, uses her wiles to lure Zeke into a craps game with her lover, Hot Shot, who cheats Zeke out of his money with loaded dice. Zeke and Hot Shot fight, and Zeke gets possession of Hot Shot's gun, firing point blank into the crowd. The shot accidentally kills his younger brother, Spunk, and in repentance, Zeke becomes a preacher. He again meets Chick, and she gets religion, deserting Hot Shot to go with him. Zeke falls for Chick and jilts his sweetheart, Missy Rose. In time, Hot Shot returns, and the fickle Chick goes off with him. Zeke gives chase, and Chick is killed when Hot Shot's buggy overturns. Zeke then kills Hot Shot in a swamp, and, after serving time on the chain gang, returns home to the faithful Missy ... +


Zeke, a black tenant farmer, takes the family cotton crop to market and sells it for nearly one hundred dollars. Chick, a dance hall temptress, uses her wiles to lure Zeke into a craps game with her lover, Hot Shot, who cheats Zeke out of his money with loaded dice. Zeke and Hot Shot fight, and Zeke gets possession of Hot Shot's gun, firing point blank into the crowd. The shot accidentally kills his younger brother, Spunk, and in repentance, Zeke becomes a preacher. He again meets Chick, and she gets religion, deserting Hot Shot to go with him. Zeke falls for Chick and jilts his sweetheart, Missy Rose. In time, Hot Shot returns, and the fickle Chick goes off with him. Zeke gives chase, and Chick is killed when Hot Shot's buggy overturns. Zeke then kills Hot Shot in a swamp, and, after serving time on the chain gang, returns home to the faithful Missy Rose. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
African American, with songs


Subject

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.