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Daniel L. Haynes , Nina Mae McKinney , King Vidor , Roy Mack    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Made in 1929, Hallelujah is an artifact of no small historical significance: the first major studio movie with an all-black cast and a white director (the esteemed King Vidor), it was also one of the earliest "talkies" after the silent film era. But it also has considerable artistic merit; simply put, Hallelujah is damned entertaining. Sure, the story isn't exactly subtle, a morality tale chronicling the tribulations of Zeke (Daniel L. Haynes), a poor cotton farmer who, succumbing to the carnal charms of the sexy Chick (Nina Mae McKinney, who was sometimes known as "the black Garbo"), finds himself caught up in a soul-scarring cycle of sin and salvation. There's also some painful dialogue of the "Where is you gwine?" and "Honey, I likes anything you's got!" variety. But the major themes presented here--temptation and transgression, redemption and repentance--are pure and universal, the dancing and singing (including two songs by Irving Berlin) are marvelous, and there are several scenes of extraordinary intensity. Those include Zeke's family's weeping, wailing response to the tragic death of his younger brother, followed by the repentant Zeke's turning to God, a sequence in which he's transformed into a latter day Martin Luther King, Jr., preaching with rhythms and cadences of hypnotic power. DVD extras include audio commentary by historian Donald Bogle, plus two shorts ("Pie, Pie Blackbird" and "The Black Network") featuring McKinney's singing, Eubie Blake's music, and the Nicholas Brothers' dance moves. A final note: Victoria Spivey, who portrays Missy Rose, the down home girl devoted to Zeke, was also one of the finest blues singers of the time. When she underwent a career revival in the early 1960s, she formed a record label whose first recording featured accompaniment by none other than Bob Dylan. --Sam Graham

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A VINTAGE MASTERPIECE. Oct. 7 2002
Format:VHS Tape
King Vidor, this film's director was vitally interested in social issues: here he wanted to show the rest of 1929 America what the black man was going through. This early talkie was the first all-black feature film and indeed one of the boldest pictures ever made - M-G-M knew it wouldn't get much of a release in the deep Southern states of the U.S. Using many amateurs - for instance, Harry Gray - who played the Parson - was a janitor at a Harlem newspaper - Vidor proved his genius by elicting performances from the melange as good as might be seen in a seasoned troupe. Shot on location in Tennessee, every frame is redolent with authenticity: it's a huge film and no expense was spared to recreate various eras. The love scenes are realistically and believably executed, and the film doesn't date nearly as much as one would suppose. In my opinion, Nina Mae McKinney was a fascinating performer who should have had more to do in films: here she plays Chick, a vibrant beauty among lowlifes. Some of the picture gets overly dramatic - with Holy Roller meetings, a wake, cabarets and various Plantation scenes -but its filled with humanity and a true understanding of the way it was back then. Tunes include AT THE END OF THE ROAD, SWANEE SHUFFLE by Irving Berlin and nearly every well-known spritual ever written. Originally filmed as a silent, the sound was added in post production.
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Format:VHS Tape
For awhile I heard of Nina Mae McKinney, I read she was married to the same man Billie Holiday would marry. Not much is said, but when you see this film you'll fall in love with her and wonder how come she's forgotten. Nina Mae McKinney was the first black beauty on the screen, she was a raw beauty, down-to-earth beauty. After one big movie, Nina Mae McKinney starred in movies as a maid, another film I suggest is a film short "Pie Pie Blackbird". Nina Mae deserved more then what she got from MGM. MGM could of made her into what Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, and Greta Garbo was to whites. Even though she was a hell of a performer, she had a little bad attitude which cost her a lot of work. But a lot her films are around, they may be hard to find, but their around. I hate how people she paved the path for Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge, she may have, but people often say Nina Mae was their role model, not really. If you ask me I think Nina Mae McKinney was better then all of them but she wouldn't kiss the white man's [bottom]. This movie is the ultimate black movie, telling about black southern life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Glorious! Feb. 16 2001
Format:VHS Tape
I saw "Hallelujah" on cable television one night, and I had to buy the video because it really touched me. I learned that it was the first all-black sound movie, and I must say it was a classic. This was such an achievement for 1929, and I must say I immediately became a fan of the beautiful Nina Mae McKinney who played the young temptress Chick in the movie. This movie was enlightening because the characters, action and everything that took place reminded me so much of today's time, especially the character Chick as a temptress, the African-American church with its unique praise and the importance of dance and song. I loved the moral of the story, it was one of redemption and forgiveness. This is a powerful film and it will always remain a historical classic. "Hallelujah" gave the young Nina Mae McKinney her start, and she later inspired other African-American beauties like Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne to let their stars shines. Truly she was before her time, but she helped blaze the trail for others to follow, and gave so much light from her star in this film. This movie is unforgettable and truly a classic! God is Love!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A unique glimpse of black music in the 1920s Jan. 16 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
I would broadly agree with the Maltin review quoted here; but it's worth commenting on the musical side. The film gives, in some sections, a remarkably authentic representation of black entertainment and relgous music in the 1920s, which no other film achieves. Unfortunately some of the sequences are rather Europeanised and over-arranged. For example, the outdoor revival meeting, with the preacher singing and acting out the 'Train to hell', is entirely authentic in style until the end, where he launches into the popular song 'Waiting at the End of the Road'. Similarly, an outdoor group of workers singing near the beginning of the film are saddled with a choral arangement of 'Way Down upon the Swanee River'(written by Stephen Foster, who never went anywhere near the South) - no black workers would sing that!. The best sequence is the dancehall, where Nina Mae McKinney gives a stunning performance of 'Swanee Shuffle' - just the right sort of popular song; although actually filmed in a New York studio using black actors, the sequence gives the most accurate representation I've ever seen of a low-life black dance-hall -part of the roots of classic jazz. Nothing else on film comes near this: most Hollywood films sanitize black music out of all recognition; and later, in the 1930s, when black artists began to show their real styles, jazz had moved on to become more sophisticated and the whole style of behaviour had changed. All this makes the film a unique document: and it's worth adding that the soundtrack is a remarkable achievement, given the primitive equipment available at the time, using a much wider range of editing and mixing techniques than is generally thought to have been used so early on in talkies. (Reviewed by Roger Wilmut)
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Hallelujah-a movie better in intentions than execution.
"Hallelujah",released in August of 1929,is a movie that was much better in intention and idea by famed director King Vidor,than in its' final execution on film. Read more
Published on July 12 2009 by Robert Badgley
5.0 out of 5 stars a magnificent milestone
The first all-African American feature film ever made, "Hallelujah !" was also King Vidor's first "talkie", and one that he was willing to forfeit his salary... Read more
Published on April 24 2004 by Alejandra Vernon
5.0 out of 5 stars HELP
I need to find a copy of this video as soon as possible. i am writing a senior project on Nina Mae McKinney for college and i would really like to see this film. Read more
Published on April 9 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Hallelujah
I found this movies finally @ Movies Unlimited if you need more information..please post a message to me on this page and I will get the information to you
Published on Jan. 8 2001 by "msladyleo"
4.0 out of 5 stars Hallelujah
I saw this movie when I was a child some 30+ years ago and a couple of times during"Black history month" on AMC and TNT. Read more
Published on Dec 22 2000 by "msladyleo"
5.0 out of 5 stars Hallelujah
I love watching old black classics movies I have been looking for this movie for the past 2yrs. This is a very excellent move. Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable
This movie is just what I needed to see -- all all-black cast movie with "old-time" religious theme.
The music is excellent. Read more
Published on March 26 1999
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