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'Black King' Caps 'Talkies' Series

February 11, 1988|KEVIN THOMAS | Times Staff Writer

Screening at 1:30 p.m. at the Four Star today, the final day of the 10th annual Black Talkies on Parade, is "The Black King" (1932), also known as "Harlem Big Shot," which has got to be one of the most fascinating films in the white-produced black American cinema.

Adapted from a story by Donald Heywood and directed by Bud Pollard, a white man long active in making movies for black audiences, "King" nakedly exploits disillusionment in the failed enterprises of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, whose sincere cause is savagely satirized.

Despite its minuscule budget, "The Black King" has considerable scope and energy. That's largely due to a dynamic, brutally comic burlesque of Garvey performed by rugged, deep-voiced A. B. Comathiere, in whose capable hands Garvey becomes no more than a phony preacher, called here the Rev. Charcoal Johnson, who has delusions of grandeur and a passion for fancy uniforms. The wealthy young man who is one of the first to see through Johnson is played by the late Lorenzo Tucker, known as the Black Valentino and once Mae West's leading man.

The UCLA Film and Television Archive's "In Celebration of Newsreel," the activist film makers' coalition now in its 20th year, continues today in Melnitz Theater with a 5:30 p.m. screening of early newsreels, including "Columbia Revolt" (1968), which wasn't available for preview.

Norman Fruchter and Robert Machover's 53-minute "Troublemakers" (1969), which opens the 7:30 p.m. program, is both sad--because of the plight of Newark's poor blacks it depicts so well--and intriguing because it provides a glimpse of the young Tom Hayden in action. He's part of a contingent of Students for Democratic Action who are trying to organize blacks to effect change in their neighborhood. Their attempts to bring a slumlord to heel and even to have a traffic light installed at a dangerous intersection, however, fail cruelly, and their political movement is no more successful.

Obviously, Hayden has learned lots since then, but the film leaves you realizing that many blacks are no better off than they were nearly 20 years ago.

Following "Troublemakers" are "El Pueblo se Levanta" (1968), which deals with a New York Puerto Rican community banding together for its betterment, the informative, 15-minute "Black Panther" (1968) and the 25-minute "San Francisco State: On Strike" (1969), unavailable for preview.

Information: (213) 825-2581.

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