review for Hallelujah! on AllMovie

Hallelujah! (1929)
by Richard Gilliam review

Hallelujah! was the first sound-era film with an all-black cast to be produced by a major studio. It's a good example of the kind of distinctive, commercially risky films that MGM producer Irving Thalberg was willing to produce to keep major talent happy -- in this case, director King Vidor. The film was also one of the first shot on-location without sound and then dubbed in post-production, yet another innovation from recording genius Douglas Shearer. Hollywood was still decades away from studio films with black casts helmed by black directors, but the Texas-born Vidor does a credible job of presenting life among rural blacks in the Deep South. Nina Mae McKinney's standout performance as the temptress Chick earned her a five-year contract with MGM. Regrettably, the studio failed to find roles for her, and the contract restricted her career more than it advanced it.