UNCLE TOM’S CABIN (1903)
Article 4295 by Dave Sindelar
What it is: Drama about slavery
The story is told of the fortunes of a black slave who is sold by his owners.
Every once in a while I’m startled to consider what I’m covering for this project, and this is one of the examples; I would have never guessed this one would pop up. Granted, I’ve never read the novel, though it was one of the sensations of the nineteenth century and had a big influence on the abolitionist movement. Probably the reason the novel isn’t read much anymore is that the black characters have become stereotypes that are no longer considered acceptable. The novel is somewhat sprawling, and any attempt to condense it into a thirteen-minute short (as is done here) is bound to lack coherence, and sure enough, it’s pretty difficult to follow this one if you haven’t read a plot summary beforehand; back then, the story was so famous, that wasn’t a problem. According to the plot summary I read, I guessed the fantastic content would involve the vision of heaven one dying character has; in this short, the fantastic content manifests itself by having angels appear a couple of times in the action. I couldn’t help but notice that, even with the time condensation necessary, the plot does come to a halt a few times for some unnecessary dance sequences, at least one of which involves a lot of characters doing the cakewalk, and though I’m not really sure about the history of that dance, I suspect its presence here is anachronistic. Nevertheless, whatever faults this short has, there’s no doubt it was a rather ambitious movie for its time.