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    Picture Stories: Lobby card for Eddie Jones’ “One Round Jones”

    The wonderful photos kept coming. For several weeks, black and white photos with a mix of people, events and celebrations turned up on the auction table. An auction-house staffer told me that a dealer brought them in each week. Most were historical photos, a few were portraits, and all were embedded with stories that I couldn’t wait to release.

    Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some of those old photos and the stories behind them in a series called “Picture Stories.” Today’s photos focus on moving pictures.

    Lobby card for Eddie Jones’ “One Round Jones,” 1940

    Lobby card for "One Round Jones," starring Eddie Green.

    Lobby card for “One Round Jones,” starring Eddie Green.

    The film “One Round Jones” tells the story of a night-club owner who offers to pay $50 to anyone who can make it through one round with a mystery fighter, who happens to be Eddie Green.

    Green wrote, directed and starred in the 20-minute comedy short, originally released in 1940. It was re-released in 1946 by Toddy Pictures Co., which purchased the rights. The company was owned by Ted Toddy, a white producer and distributor of all-black films.

    He was an actor, director, producer and film-production company owner. Green was among the country’s first black filmmakers, along with Oscar Micheaux, William D. Foster and Noble Johnson. Just as Green, most of them made shorts. Micheaux is credited with being the first black filmmaker to create a full-length film with black actors.

    Green made five movies and formed three movie companies before gaining fame as a waiter on a long-running radio comedy called “Duffy’s Tavern.” That led to him playing the same role in the 1945 film “Ed Gardner’s Duffy’s Tavern.”

    Green got his start in film production as head of Deanwood Motion Pictures Corporation in Washington, DC, in 1922. That venture did not last long. From there, he was tapped for a variety show on NBC/RCA in 1936, becoming one of the first African Americans to appear on public television. Three years later, he formed a film company, Sepia Arts Pictures Company, which produced “One Round Jones,” its last movie. He did it all in all of his movies, which were shot in a studio on a lot in Palisades, NJ.

    This is from the first Sepia Arts movie “Dress Rehearsal,” which was shown at the Apollo in New York in April 1939:

    First man: What are you doing here? I wrote you a letter four days ago. Didn’t you get it?

    Second man: Yes, here it is.

    First man: Well, can’t you read, it says your services are no longer required, why did you come back?

    Second man: Well, the envelope says ‘return in 5 days.’

    The movie was broadcast on NBC-TV later than year.

    “The first thing I try for is naturalness,” Green told a writer for the Baltimore Afro-American in 1939. “I write my own stories, building them around some incident that has been interesting, but not offensive. Then I select the actors that I think are best suited to the parts so that they need only be themselves. We usually rehearse for a short about two weeks.”

    Lobby card for “Gangsters on the Loose,” starring Ralph Cooper and Theresa Harris, 1945

    Lobby card for “Gangsters on the Loose,” and other movies with all-black casts.

    This is one of the gangster movies in which Ralph Cooper produced and starred. He is best known as the first emcee for Amateur Night at the Apollo in New York, starting there in 1935. “Gangsters on the Loose” was originally released as “Bargains with Bullets” in 1937.

    Cooper – who was called the “Dark Gable,” in reference to Clark Gable of “Gone With the Wind” fame –  was also an actor and director of movies with all-black casts, and his movies were based on the  gangster culture. This movie is about a gangster/thief named Mugsy who has a romantic interest in two women – his moll girlfriend (who turns him in to police after a robbery) and a woman from his past (played by Harris).

    Cooper made the Apollo into one of the most recognizable live entertainment venues in the country. That got him noticed by Twentieth Century Fox, which called him out to Hollywood but never cast him in any films. He taught Shirley Temple some dance steps in “Poor Little Rich Girl.” But more important, he learned filmmaking skills at the studio. He co-founded a film company called Randol-Cooper Productions with his dance partner, and they made their first film “Dark Manhattan” in 1937.

    He helped form what was said to be his most successful company, Million Dollar Productions, with white investors, and became its front man. “Bargains” was one of its first movies, which he wrote and starred in along with Harris, who at that time was said to be a star of black cinema. She also played in Hollywood movies, but primarily as a maid.

    The movie was controversial. It was rejected for showing at theaters in Kansas by the state Board of Review because of its “gangster themes, detailed crime, offensive sex, and undue glorification of the character Mugsy.” It was edited and was approved by the board four days later. Other censor boards in other states also shred it.

    Cooper, who appeared in 10 movies, left the company in 1940, and it was later acquired by Toddy Pictures.

    “Condemned Men,” with Mantan Moreland, along with Dorothy Dandridge (at 17 years old)

    This was a zombie movie with an all-black cast, and reportedly directed by William Beaudine, a white low-budget movie and TV director. He did not take credit for it, however.

    It was made in 1940 as “Four Shall Die” by Million Dollar Productions, and re-released with the new title of “Condemned Men.” There is some question as to when it was actually re-released. The caption on a photo of a poster for the movie gave the re-release date as 1941. A book on African American films listed the date as 1948. The Danville, VA, newspaper mentioned that Moreland was starring in “Condemned Men” at a local theater in 1947. It is said to be a lost film.

    “Foul Play” was a comedy released in 1929 and produced by Pathe Studios. It was described as stereotypical.



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