View Full Version : You Southern Trash...

Brian Wolle
04-01-2009, 08:38 PM
I mean gentlemen of the South, of course, would have loved the movie on Stars or Encore today Starring Will Rogers in a John Ford movie from 1934 called "Judge Priest". Reminded me of birth of a nation in parts. Man gets accused of murder but we come to find out in his trial, he is really a southern hero who was too humble to crow about it. Black people in it (like the first production of "showboat" starring Irene Dunn) fit the stereotype and included Hattie McDaniel.
I had never heard of this movie. Maybe I should check further in my bio of Ford I got a while back.

04-01-2009, 08:50 PM
Very funny old film! I loved when the Judge had the black people playing "Dixie" outside the courtroom when convict/hero was on trial. I didn't find it mean spirited.

"Will Rogers plays the lead roll, that of Judge William "Billy" Priest in a very patriotic (Confederate) southern town. Priest plays a laid-back, widowed judge who helps uphold the law in his toughest court case yet. In the meantime, he plays matchmaker for his young nephew."



"Judge Priest is also noteworthy for the significant roles it gives to two African-American character actors, Stepin Fetchit and Hattie McDaniels. While their film personas undeniably play into dated racial stereotypes against Will Rogers' "paternalism," to use the wording of biographer Ray Robinson, there is considerably more going on in the film. In fact, it is very characteristic of John Ford as a director to use typecasting and stereotypes--however uncomfortable such stereotypes make us today--as a kind of shorthand upon which he embellishes characters and subsequently deepens our understanding of them. How this operates becomes clear viewing Will Roger's onscreen interactions with the Stepin Fetchit and Hattie McDaniels characters. At a crucial turning point in the narrative, the Judge joins in a call-and-response with Aunt Dilsey (Hattie McDaniels). And after some bantering between Judge Priest and the defendant Jeff Poindexter (Stepin Fetchit) fishing bait in the opening courtroom scene, we see, in the next scene, the evident pleasure the two take in a fishing outing together, strolling side by side down the road. Stepin Fetchit later said of the film, "When people saw me and Will Rogers like brothers, that said something to them."

Originally, John Ford intended to make the film a sharper and more direct commentary on race by including an attempted lynching of the Stepin Fetchit character and an impassioned anti-lynching speech by Judge Priest, but the studio executives cut the footage from the final release version, claiming that the scenes clashed with the lighter tone of the film as a whole. Ford returned to the Judge Priest stories almost two decades later with The Sun Shines Bright (1953), this time with the lynching subplot intact and Stepin Fetchit returning in a supporting role. Ford himself regarded The Sun Shines Bright as the finest work of his career. Whether or not one shares his judgment, it indicates how much the two Judge Priest films meant to the director personally."

Brian Wolle
04-01-2009, 11:51 PM

Oh, you're that cool guy who quotes J-stew.

Brian Wolle
04-01-2009, 11:54 PM
I was amazed it got on the TV. "Showboat" with Irene Dunn was a real eye-opener also. Loved them both -better than GWTW.