Souls of Sin (1949, B&W):
In Harlem, temptation lurks around every corner. Hard luck gambler "Dollar Bill" Burton hates his squalid existence sharing a run-down basement apartment with a struggling writer and a penniless blues guitarist from Alabama. All three men dream of success in the Big Apple, but only Dollar Bill is desperate enough to stoop to crime to achieve it. Dealing cocaine for gangster Bad Boy George could be Bill's ticket out of Harlem - or it could be a one-way boarding pass to hell.
Souls of Sin (1949) is a poignant and literate portrait of a black man at a moral crossroads. The sobering subject matter is served with an enjoyable side course of music and comedy. This mixture was a tradition in many all-black productions of the 1930s and 40s, and makes for compelling viewing today.
Starring Jimmy Wright, Savannah Churchill, Emory Richardson, William Greaves; Directed by Powell Lindsay.
Murder on Lenox Ave. (1941, B&W): The crowded rooms of Harlem tenement buildings become crucibles of populist politics and powerful passions. Crooked businessman Leon Marshall runs the local Better Business League as his personal fiefdom, enriching himself at the expense of the poor. He faces a challenge from Pa Williams, a respected patriarch in the community. Marshall and his hunchback henchman Lomax are determined to end Williams' political life - not with ballots, but with bullets.
After finishing work on Murder on Lennox Avenue, director Arthur Dreifuss moved to PRC studios, where he made The Payoff (1942), Boss of Big Town (1942) and Baby Face Morgan (1942). He directed a pair of popular Boston Blackie pictures for Columbia in 1945. He is best remembered today for a late-in-career "classic," Riot on Sunset Strip (1967). Beautiful Edna Mae Harris and bluesy Mamie Smith contribute some fine vocal performances to this inspirational piece of all-black cinema.
Starring Mamie Smith, Edna Mae Harris, Augustus Smith, Norman Astwood; Directed by Arthur Dreifuss.
SOULS OF SIN: A gambler, a musician, and a writer all find themselves mixed up with the female owner of a nightclub in this vintage African-American feature.
MURDER ON LENOX AVENUE: Featuring a completely African-American cast, this 1940s drama follows the disgraced leader of the Harlem Better Business League as he plots to murder his replacement.