Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Indiegogo Video: 'Dear White People' Breaks Domestic Box Office Record for a Crowdfunded Film Indiegogo Video: 'Dear White People' Breaks Domestic Box Office Record for a Crowdfunded Film These Films & TV Series Are Leaving Netflix's Streaming Library at the End of This Month (January) These Films & TV Series Are Leaving Netflix's Streaming Library at the End of This Month (January) Say Hello to the Cast of the All-New, All-Female 'Ghostsbusters' movie Say Hello to the Cast of the All-New, All-Female 'Ghostsbusters' movie Review: Nuance-Deprived "Race" Movie 'Black or White' is Actually About White Frustration (Opens Friday) Review: Nuance-Deprived "Race" Movie 'Black or White' is Actually About White Frustration (Opens Friday) Trailer: Musical Take on the Gospel According to John the Apostle w/ a Black Cast (Harry Lennix, Chaka Khan, Mali Music, More) Trailer: Musical Take on the Gospel According to John the Apostle w/ a Black Cast (Harry Lennix, Chaka Khan, Mali Music, More) ABC Picks Up New Pilot From Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland Titled 'The Catch' ABC Picks Up New Pilot From Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland Titled 'The Catch' First 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Trailer Surfaces! Watch It Now! First 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Trailer Surfaces! Watch It Now! Review: 'Girlhood's' Strength Lies in Its Naturalistic Depiction of Young Female Friendship (Opens Friday) Review: 'Girlhood's' Strength Lies in Its Naturalistic Depiction of Young Female Friendship (Opens Friday) Ava DuVernay & David Oyelowo Make It a Trifecta as They Re-Team for Katrina-Set Love Story/Murder Mystery Ava DuVernay & David Oyelowo Make It a Trifecta as They Re-Team for Katrina-Set Love Story/Murder Mystery Review: Lifetime's 'With This Ring' - So What Did You Think of It? Review: Lifetime's 'With This Ring' - So What Did You Think of It? Review: Nzingha Stewart Guides Lifetime's 'With This Ring' (Premieres Saturday, January 24th) Review: Nzingha Stewart Guides Lifetime's 'With This Ring' (Premieres Saturday, January 24th) Here Are 10 Reasons Why Many of You Aren't Going to Movie Theaters Anymore, According to a New Study Here Are 10 Reasons Why Many of You Aren't Going to Movie Theaters Anymore, According to a New Study 'Empire' Breaks Fox TV’s 22 Year Old Ratings Record 'Empire' Breaks Fox TV’s 22 Year Old Ratings Record Alexandra Shipp Has been Cast as Storm in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Alexandra Shipp Has been Cast as Storm in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay 'Supremacy' Director Deon Taylor Talks Race, Horror, and Working With Lela Rochon (LAFF Premiere) 'Supremacy' Director Deon Taylor Talks Race, Horror, and Working With Lela Rochon (LAFF Premiere) Macy Gray, Bryshere Y. Gray (aka Yazz The Greatest) Will Have An Affair In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' Macy Gray, Bryshere Y. Gray (aka Yazz The Greatest) Will Have An Affair In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' It's A 'Hustle & Flow' Reunion! Taraji P. Henson Joins Terrence Howard In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' It's A 'Hustle & Flow' Reunion! Taraji P. Henson Joins Terrence Howard In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

The First Book By A Black Author Adapted To Film By A Hollywood Studio Was...?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act April 16, 2012 at 3:29PM

No, Oscar Micheaux doesn't count in this case, because, again, I'm only considering books that have been optioned and adapted by Hollywood studios.
5
Frank Yerby

No, Oscar Micheaux doesn't count in this case, because, again, I'm only considering books that have been optioned and adapted by Hollywood studios.

A headscratcher... so I went through a few books of mine that cover black film history, notably books by Donald Bogle, bell hooks, Manthia DiawaraEd Guerrero, and others. And I think I found the answer within the pages of Guerrero's Framing Blackness: The African American Image In Film (a recommended read if you haven't read it already).

On page 28, in the chapter titled Hollywood's Inscription Of Slavery, Guerrero mentions a 1946 book by African American author, Frank Yerby, titled, The Foxes of Harrow.

Guerrero doesn't explicitly state that the book is indeed the first by a black author to be adapted by a Hollywood studio (20th Century Fox in this case), so I wasn't immediately certain. Naturally, I looked up Yerby and the book to find mentions on a number of sites (Wikipedia, IMDB, The New Georgian Encyclopedia, and others) that all say Yerby was the first African American author to see his work adapted to film by a Hollywood studio.

So what's this book about?

Well, first, it's worth noting that it was a best-seller; it centered on "an Irish rascal and inveterate gambler who wins a vast estate while gaming in New Orleans."

In 1947 John M. Stahl directed a film based on the book, which starred Rex Harrison and Maureen O'Hara. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction.

The novel the film is based on appears to be out of print, although you can buy early editions from resellers via Amazon.com as I learned.

The film isn't readily available either; the only site I found it on was on Amazon, but it's the Spanish version, in region 2. It's definitely not on Netflix. Maybe try eBay.

Clearly, the book's story isn't centered on black people, which would partly explain studio interest at the time; as for its content... in Ed Guerrero's book, he praises the film (not necessarily Yerby's book), as one of a number of 1940s movies that "increasingly sensitized Hollywood to the African American perspective on slavery..." He highlights 2 scenes from the film as examples of an "undercurrent of... cultural resistance to slavery and Christianity."

In the first, slaves are shown practicing a voodoo ceremony; and in the second, a black mother throws herself and her baby into a river to avoid having to go on living in slavery (almost as if addressing the scene from Birth Of A Nation, when the white woman jumps off a cliff to avoid submitting to a black man).

So, clearly there were subplots involving black people. But, as I said, that was the movie adaptation, not the book.

With regards to the book, I found this piece in the New Georgian Encyclopedia: "Yerby was often criticized by blacks for the lack of focus on or stereotypical treatment of African American characters in his books. Thus, ironically, while Yerby held the distinction of being the first best-selling black novelist, he also became one of the most disparaged for his lack of racial consciousness. In response to this criticism, Yerby argued that "the novelist hasn't any right to inflict on the public his private ideas on politics, race, or religion." He later amended this stance to a degree, and in the late 1950s and 1960s he wrote novels that touched upon issues of race and southern culture..."

Hmm... alright. Noted :)

Yerby died in 1991 by the way. He was 75 years old.

The above photo was taken in 1983.


Shadow & ActNewsletter