Uncle Tom's Cabin (1958)

Genres - Historical Film  |   Sub-Genres - Message Movie  |   Run Time - 93 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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The ever-mounting Civil Rights movement of 1958 prompted entrepreneurs Jules B. Weill and Carroll L. Puciato to reissue the 1926 screen version of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Narrated by Raymond Massey, who also appears in a newly filmed prologue, the 32-year-old production is presented fairly intact. Unfortunately, audiences of the late 1950s, primed to laugh derisively at silent movies, were underwhelmed by the old film, which though admittedly no classic was certainly better than most adaptations of the Stowe original. George Siegmann steals the show as the libidinous, tobacco-stained Simon Legree; Virginia Grey (then a mere child) is an effective Little Eva; Margarita Fisher is effective, though a shade too mature, as Eliza; and Noble Johnson is a tower of strength as Uncle Tom. The film follows the Stowe novel with off-and-on fidelity; after all, that Eliza-crossing-the-ice bit originated not with Stowe but with the original stage presentations of Uncle Tom's Cabin, a staple of travelling shows and repertory companies throughout the end of the 19th century. One question: if this reissue of Uncle Tom's Cabin was really meant to reflect an enlightened view of race relations in the late 1950s, as the publicity alleged, how did Weill and Puciato explain away the fact that mischievous slave Topsy was played by Mona Ray, a white actress in blackface?