The Brand of Cain (1935)

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Synopsis by Hans J. Wollstein

In one of the best known black crime melodramas of the '30s, a young African-American writer turned lawyer, Henry Glory (Clarence Brooks), is asked by his girlfriend Claudia Vance (Dorothy Van Engle) to defend her brother in a notorious murder case. A night watchman, Harper Vance is accused of murdering a girl at the plant where he works. Glory accepts the case and goes on to prove that the murder was actually committed by Brisbane (Andrew Bishop), the plant boss, who then, with the assistance of petty thief Lem Hawkins (Alec Lovejoy), framed the innocent Harper. A remake of Oscar Micheaux's 1921 The Gunsaulus Mystery, The Brand of Cain was based on the notorious Leo Frank murder case, in which a white man framed a black janitor for killing a young white girl. Mervyn Le Roy's 1937 They Won't Forget, featuring Lana Turner as the murder victim, also bore a resemblance to the Frank case and the 1988 NBC mini-series, The Murder of Mary Phagan, was directly based on the murder and subsequent trial. Brooks had been one of the founders of the Lincoln Motion Picture Company, the first important black-owned film producer.