Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Spirit of Youth/Lucky Ghost|
Actors: Joe Louis, Clarence Muse, Edna Mae Harris, Mae Turner, Cleo Desmond
Directors: Harry L. Fraser, William Beaudine
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Gotham (dba Alpha) Release Date: 03/29/2007
Mixed bag of the bug-eyed wonder
Andre M. | Mt. Pleasant, SC United States | 05/10/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is advertised as a double feature of films with Mantan Moreland, he of bulging eyes who was a major African-American comedian of the 30s and 40s, best remembered as "Birmingham brown" in the Charlie Chan films.
However, he has very little to do in "Spirit of Youth"(1938). The only reason anyone would want to see that now is historical. It's about the great boxer Joe Louis (as himself) and how he gets sidetracked in his boxing career by a pretty girl and a gangster. Mantan is his buddy and comedy relief. Mighty rough to watch today. A very poorly preserved print, cornball and predictable story, and some really stilted acting except for Mantan and the great Clarence Muse as Joe's manager. For a better film with Muse, see "Broken Strings" (1940).
The bug eyed wonder is put to better use in "Lucky Ghost" (1941). Here, Mantan is teamed with his sometime stage partner Flournoy Miller (who also served as a counsultant and writer of the Amos and Andy show). This is a pretty amusing, likeable, and witty tale about Mantan and Miller winning a house in a crap game that turns out to be haunted. Yes, it's stereotyped by modern standards and Mantan's wild-eyed dice shooting shtick from this film has been used in documentaries (and Spike Lee's "bamboozled") as an example of demeaning stereotypes of blacks in films of that time, but in its context it's really amusing.
Mantan and Miller were old vaudevillians who play off each other quite well (Miller appeared in the legendary black broadway show "Shuffle Along" in 1922 and Mantan and Louis Jordan performed together in Huntington's Minstrel Show in the South around the same time). Florence O'Brien is quite appealing as the femme fatale. Interestingly, there's some humor here that would not be typically allowed in mainstream films of that itme. One such scene has Mantan's pop eyes (deservedly) admiring the ample, precious rump of Miss O'Brien and in another scene, the camera focuses on the cleavage of a waitress.
In either case, "Lucky Ghost" is fascinating for fans of early black comedy films and entertaining for all but the most racially sensitive viewers. While Mantan Moreland's manstream work in mostly white films such as the Frankie Darro and Charlie Chan films are plentiful on dvd, it would be interesting to see more of his work with Miller in Black films such as "Mr. Washington Goes To Town," "Mantan Messes Up," and "Professor Creeps" among others."