DIRTY GERTIE FROM HARLEM U.S.A (director: Spencer Williams; screenwriter: True T. Thompson/based on a W. Somerset Maugham short story; cinematographer: John Herrmann; cast: Francine Everett (Gertie LaRue), Diamond Joe (Don Wilson), Alfred Hawkins (Mr. Christian), David Boykin (Ezra), Don Gilbert (Manager), John King (Al), Kathrine Moore (Stella Van Johnson), Piano Frank (Larry), L. E. Lewis (Papa Bridges), Inez Newell(Mama Bridges), Spencer Williams (Old Hager, Fortune Teller), Shelly Ross (Big Boy). Hugh Watson (Tight Pants); Runtime: 65; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Burt Goldberg; Kino-Lorber; 1946)
“It’s a low-budget b/w race film directed with much skill by African-American director Spencer Williams.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s a low-budget b/w race film directed with much skill by African-American director Spencer Williams (“The Blood of Jesus”/”Juke Joint”). The film is written by True T. Thompson and is based on an unauthorized adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham short story “Miss Thompson.” It was filmed before as a silent called Sadie Thompson (1928) and as a Joan Crawford talkie called Rain (1932). It tells of an amoral femme fatale stripper from Harlem, Gertie LaRue (Francine Everett), who done her generous sugar daddy, Al (John King), wrong and flees for her safety to the island of Trinidad (in the film called Rinidad). She’s given a big celebrity welcome by the owners (L. E. Lewis & Inez Newell) of the Paradise Hotel, where she’s staying. Diamond Joe (Don Wilson) is the smitten owner of the Diamond Palace nightclub, where Gertie and her large troupe have been hired to perform their vaudeville routine. Two Christian missionaries, Mr. Jonathan Christian (Alfred Hawkins) and his assistant Ezra Crumm (David Boykin ), who came on the same boat to the island as Gertie and are staying at the same hotel, went to see a Voodoo fortune teller (Spencer Williams, played in drag by the director) when she’s spooked by the aggressive reformer Mr. Christian. The old lady tells her she has a dark future. When Gertie doesn’t change her ways Mr. Christian tries to stop her show by attacking her on stage, but is stopped by Diamond Joe. When Gertie returns late at night from her upsetting opening show, she’s surprised to see Al coming into her hotel room from the balcony and the fortune teller’s prediction is proven to be true.
REVIEWED ON 8/1/2016 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ