Title: Alan Lomax dictates a critique of Gordon Parks' film Lead Belly
Date recorded: November 30, 1975
Date recorded: November 30, 1975
Physical form: Cassette Tape
Tape number: T4013
Track Number: 2
Archive ID: T4013b
Belongs to: Lomax, 1975
Note: Second part of this tape is Alan Lomax's critique of Gordon Parks's film about Lead Belly, which he possibly intended to be turned into written form. Hard to judge, he begins, who is responsible for fakery in a movie. Was it David Stone [Sic] (English celebrity David Frost was the producer), whom Lomax had known and liked, or writer Ernest Kinoy, whose 1968 screenplay removed the political dimension from Carson McCullers' great novel, "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" and turned it into sentimental trash? Whoever was responsible, Alan says, they made a creampuff out of a tiger of a man. They turned the tough and rancid landscape of Texas and Louisiana into the "perpetual spring of the downs of southern England." None of the prisoners were shown to sweat, whereas in actuality it was so hot that sweat poured off them in sheets. It was so hot even Alan and his father had to lie down in the shade of a tree drinking lemonade after the relatively mild labor of recording them. The baby-faced, smooth-muscled actor playing Lead Belly doesn't begin to do justice to Lead Belly's genius. When Lead Belly first sang as a complete unknown before an audience of 3,000, the purity of his thrilling tenor voice drew a standing ovation. The prison farms of the American South were living hells of violence, evil, and despair. They were American Dachaus, where inmates worked from before sunrise to dark of night, supervised by trusties with shotguns. A surly look or even a reluctant move could get you killed by the guards, no questions asked. The existence of these prisons inspired a terror that kept the population in line throughout the South. There was one way and one way only to respond and that was though accommodation. Yet in the film, Lead Belly is shown grabbing the whip out of a guard's hand and indignantly protesting injustice like a 1960s civil rights leader. Lomax later elaborated these themes in his book, "The Land Where the Blues Began." The film was produced by British celebrity, David Frost, whom Alan mistakenly calls "David Stone." His friends Pete Seeger and John Henry Faulk also participated in the film.
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About the session: Alan Lomax lecture on cultural diversity to mental health professionals in Newark, New Jersey
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