Oscar Micheaux by Patrick Mcgilligan
The Great and Only

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Synopsis

Oscar Micheaux was the Jackie Robinson of film, the black D. W. Griffith: a bigger-than-life American folk hero whose important life story is nearly forgotten today. Now, in a feat of historical investigation and vivid storytelling, one of our greatest film biographers takes on one of the most talented and complex figures in the history of American entertainment.

The son of freed slaves, Micheaux grew up in Metropolis, Illinois, then roamed America as a Pullman porter before making his first mark as a homesteader in South Dakota. Disaster and defeat there led him to forge a career publishing a successful series of autobiographical novels. Ever the entrepreneur, when Hollywood failed to bid high enough for film rights to his stories, he answered by forming his own film production company. Going on to produce or direct twenty-two silent and fifteen sound films in his lifetime, Micheaux became the king of the "race cinema" industry at a time when black-produced films had to scrounge for venues in a segregated society.

In this groundbreaking new biography, award-winning film historian Patrick McGilligan offers a vivid and fascinating portrait of this little-known pioneer. Part visionary, part raffish Barnum-like showman, Micheaux was both a maverick filmmaker and an inveterate hustler who used every weapon at his disposal to break the color barrier and thrive in a profession he helped to invent. He made a fortune and lost it again, and launched repeated con games that were followed by public arrests and bankruptcies. He eagerly took credit for the work of others—including his unsung-heroine wife. In his desperate later years, he even sunk to plagiarizing his final novel—a discovery McGilligan reveals here for the first time.

In this searching exploration, McGilligan tracks down long-lost financial records, unpublished letters, and unmarked pauper's graves, pinpointing Micheaux's birthplace, his tangled personal life, and the circumstances of his tragic death. The result is an epic that bridges a fascinating period in American history, and offers lessons for anyone who would understand the role of black America in forming the culture of our time.

 

About Patrick Mcgilligan

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Patrick McGilligan’s biographies include the acclaimed Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only; the Edgar-nominated Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light; Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast; and George Cukor: A Double Life. The author of several New York Times Notable Books, he has also penned biographies of Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Robert Altman, and James Cagney, along with the oral history Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist (with Paul Buhle). McGilligan lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
 
Published September 18, 2008 by HarperCollins e-books. 418 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Oscar Micheaux

Kirkus Reviews

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Essential for anyone interested in racial issues and the history of American filmmaking; a well researched, passionately felt and endlessly fascinating look at a singular American life.

Jul 01 2007 | Read Full Review of Oscar Micheaux: The Great and...

Kirkus Reviews

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The frankly amazing story of the black D.W. Griffith.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Oscar Micheaux: The Great and...

The New York Times

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The black auteur Oscar Micheaux explored issues of race in the Jim Crow era.

Aug 05 2007 | Read Full Review of Oscar Micheaux: The Great and...

Time Out New York

What’s more, Micheaux, a master of PR, left unreliable accounts of his life and work (he wrote two versions of his autobiography).

Jul 05 2007 | Read Full Review of Oscar Micheaux: The Great and...

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