You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

Watch ‘Oscar Micheaux: The Czar of Black Hollywood’ – Rare Feature Doc on the Cinema Pioneer

Watch 'Oscar Micheaux: The Czar of Black Hollywood' - Rare Feature Doc on the Cinema Pioneer

It confounds me that an official feature film on the life and work of Oscar Micheaux (whether a comprehensive documentary made for the big screen, or a scripted biopic with proper financial backing) has never been made – especially in a time when there seems to be so much interest in films based on the lives of real life public figures. Granted he’s been gone for over 50 years now, but that’s even more of a reason to bring his life story to the screen, if only so that there’s a necessary broader awareness of him – a pioneer who seems, for all intents and purposes, except in certain cinephile circles, lost in the annals of cinema history.

I’m curious to know if, those of you currently in film school, or who recently graduated, have been, or were previously exposed to Micheaux and his work in any of your various classes. When I was in film school, I learned nothing of the man, so I’m really interested in knowing if he’s in any current curricula.

There was Pearl Bowser’s 1994 documentary “Midnight Ramble: Oscar Micheaux & the Story of Race Movies,” but that wasn’t specifically about Micheaux; rather a telling of the history of black cinema, specifically during the first few decades of the industry’s existence, when so-called “Race movies” were made.

Looking ahead, currently in development are: writer/director JD Walker’s Oscar Micheaux feature film (a scripted project we first alerted to a year ago, and have been updating you on since then), titled “Oscar Micheaux: Negro Pioneer,” and a feature documentary called “Oscar’s Comeback,” directed by Lisa Collins, which takes a look at a festival celebrating a Micheaux – a festival in an all-white town (Gregory, South Dakota). The project can be tracked at its website ( and Facebook page ( And you can follow Lisa Collins’ “Oscar’s Comeback” here:

While we wait for those 2 films to be completed, check out the 60-minute web-released 2014 documentary on Micheaux below, titled “Oscar Micheaux: The Czar of Black Hollywood,” which chronicles the early life and career of Micheaux (1884-1951), using archival film, images and music to create a portrait of Micheaux’s early life.

The film comes from director Bayer Mack, and Block Starz Television. 

Mack said he was inspired to make the film because, in part, he was shocked that, in spite of Micheaux’s historical significance, there was “virtually nothing out there about [his] life.”

The film is executive produced by Frances Presley Rice and Hal Croasmun, and narrated by William Bell.

Watch a trailer for Bayer Mack’s “Oscar Micheaux: The Czar of Black Hollywood” below, and head over to Vimeo where you can rent it to watch in full for $4.99.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged



*I graduated from ODU last year


I graduated college from Old Dominion University in Virginia. I minored in Film Studies and I took about 10-15 film courses throughout my studies. Out of all of those courses I recall talking about Micheaux once. And we didn’t even talk about him, more like we watched a documentary about American film and he was mentioned.


Correction: Not Chester Hines, but Charles W. Chesnutt and his novel "The House Behind the Cedars."


@CareyCarey, yes I did know that Spencer Williams and Tim Moore starred in "Amos & Andy," and that Moore worked with Micheaux as the show's significance is also a crucial part of film and television curriculum at Howard University.

Micheaux also gave Paul Robeson one of his early film roles, if not the first, in "Body and Soul" which showcases one of Micheaux' favorite topics, the hypocrisy of the black church.

The film historian Pearl Bowser has written several books about Micheaux, but I've found that one of the recent and compelling books about Micheaux' life is "Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only" by Patrick McGilligan. It extensively documents the years before Micheaux began making films, the troubled relationship with his first wife and her wealthy Chicago family, his dealings with Chester Hines, the ways in which Micheaux cleverly skirted around the southern censorship boards, and the making of his last film, an almost three hour long epic, in color, that is lost, as are most of the films Micheaux made during the silent era. I've personally read this particular book twice because of the writing, but also because of the fascinating life story it tells. Micheaux' films may suffer from technical consistency as he was often working with shoestring budgets and extremely short production schedules, but he driven, made films for black audiences and did so outside of Hollywood. Yes, he should definitely be more known.

Eddie Goines


Charles Micheaux

I have lived in Europe (Rome Italy) for many years and in my travels across Europe Oscar Micheaux films have found a place in a good number of homes and he is really popular in Spain and France. Today, he has an International Audience thanks in large part to the Internet and Youtube.
Most Americans do not have a CLUE who Oscar Micheaux is.

Charles Micheaux
Atlanta, Georgia

Up In The Balcony

The reader, Get-A-Clue, takes a slobbery wad of gum from his mouth and throws it at the heckler and jeckler.

Ain't nobody got time to read all that crap, says Get-a-clue. Waldorf catches the gum and puts it in his mouth.

W: "huummm, yummy, the taste lasts a long time"
S: "That's nasty, but you know what… Get-A-Clue has a point. Ain't nobody got time to focus on all your nonsense, so lets keep this short. Speak to me about this post"

"Okay, I'll try, but I need more"
"More what?"
"Well… " it was dark, hot, and smelled like sweaty armpits mixed with roasted peanuts but the crowd (colored folks) loved every minute of it"
"Yeah, I caught those lines in the doc. He was referring to blacks in a movie theater in Chicago"
"and I need more. I wanna hear the voices of black folks in Micheaux's era"
"Well, Bager Mack, the films director said in spite of Oscar Micheaux's historical significance there was [and is] nothing out there about his life. The begging question is – WHY?"
"I'm gonna keep this short… black folks, black folks, black folks are the main villains behind this travesty"
"Well, I'm tryin' to keep this short… so another line from the doc stated "There was only one problem, she was white!"
"Ouch! And that's not the only problem that raised the black folk's stink-eye. For many in the hobnob-snob class of black folks, Oscar Micheaux was the Tyler Perry of his days. Many rejected his "preaching" and harbored a deep disdain for his film's low "quality"

Waldorf: Really?
Statler: yeah really… but I'm trying to keep this short, so… didn't you hear how he blasted black folks in his Open Letter to Black Americans, in the Chicago Defender? OH BOY… he didn't spare the rod. One line read… "and then his fine clothes… he haven't the least thought of were the wool grew that he wears but describes himself as classy… his future is truly discouraging"

"opps upside our heads. So you agree that we need more of the whole story?"
"Yes I do. And if the post "Boycotting Exodus" received 60 comments, 182 shares and 60 tweets, we all need more of Oscar Micheaux."
"And, did you know my uncle appeared in a Micheaux film?"
"Yep… The Darktown Review"
"Tell me more"
"Nope, we promised to keep this short… so I'm out"


Oscar Micheaux is a big part of the film curriculum at Howard University in addition to The Lincoln Motion Picture Company, Spencer Williams, William Greaves, Ossie Davis, Kathleen Collins, Larry Clark, Charles Burnette and many, many others.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *