Intruder in the Dust

Intruder in the Dust

Cast: Clarence Brown, David Brian, Claude Jarman Jr., Juano Hernandez

     
 

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Intruder in the Dust is one of the best of Hollywood's postwar "racial tolerance" cycle--a cycle that would come to an abrupt end in the politically paranoid 1950s. Based on a novel by William Faulkner, the film takes place in a small Mississippi town (it was filmed on location in and around Oxford, MS). Juano Hernandez plays an African-American landowner who

Overview

Intruder in the Dust is one of the best of Hollywood's postwar "racial tolerance" cycle--a cycle that would come to an abrupt end in the politically paranoid 1950s. Based on a novel by William Faulkner, the film takes place in a small Mississippi town (it was filmed on location in and around Oxford, MS). Juano Hernandez plays an African-American landowner who is arrested on a murder charge. Resentful of Hernandez' industriousness, the white townsfolk are eager to see him hang. David Brian, the attorney uncle of a young white boy (Claude Jarman Jr.) who has befriended Hernandez, agrees to take the accused man's case. His job is complicated by the lynch-mob mentality fomented by the dead man's brother (Charles Kemper) and Hernandez' refusal to reveal the name of the man he suspects as the killer. The hostile atmosphere reaches a fever pitch, but justice is ultimately served. Intruder in the Dust stands out among other films of its period with its refusal to stoop to any form of condescension towards its black characters or to rationalize the behavior of the bigots. Though produced by MGM, the film wisely displays none of that studio's patented glossiness, opting instead for a dusty, sun-scorched, fleabitten veneer that enhances the film's basic realism.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Hollywood began to develop a conscience about racism in the 1940s, when our World War II fight against fascism began to raise consciousness about prejudice at home. As the decade drew to a close, 1949 brought four major American films that dealt with racial prejudice; while Pinky and Home of the Brave received more attention in the press and at the box office, and Lost Boundaries developed something of a cult following, Intruder in the Dust was at once the best and most underrated of this cycle about "the Negro Problem." Based on a novel by William Faulkner and shot in Faulkner's hometown of Oxford, Mississippi with a primarily non-professional cast, the film possesses a strikingly dry, gravelly naturalism that owes more than a passing debt to the Italian neo-realist movement (it's all the more remarkable that director Clarence Brown was able to achieve such realism under the sponsorship of Hollywood's House of Glamour, MGM). It is anchored by a superb performance from Juano Hernandez as Lucas Beauchamp, a singular African-American character of the period: displaying pride and self-knowledge without a baseless arrogance, Beauchamp was a black man who refused to "act black," deferring to no one and seemingly secure in the knowledge that he is no better and no worse than any other man. Beauchamp's stubborn refusal to be beholden to anyone, even after he's accused of murder, would make him an unusual character regardless of race; for a black man in 1949, Beauchamp was just short of revolutionary, and Hernandez brought him to life with an uncommon strength and intelligence. Hernandez had only appeared in two other films (the previous one, an Oscar Micheaux cheapie called Lying Lips, was released ten years earlier) and, like many African-American performers, he had trouble finding the roles he deserved; but his turn in this film made clear that he was as strong a character actor as anyone in Hollywood. While the film's attempt at a "feel-good" ending doesn't ring true, Intruder in the Dust is otherwise a rarity of its period, a "message movie" that's tough, unsentimental, and affecting, making its points without speechifying or mounting a soapbox.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/01/2011
UPC:
0883316317006
Original Release:
1949
Source:
Warner Archives
Time:
1:27:00
Sales rank:
7,200

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
David Brian John Gavin Stevens
Claude Jarman Chick Mallison
Juano Hernandez Lucas Beauchamp
Charles Kemper Crawford Gowrie
Will Greer Sheriff Hampton
Elizabeth Patterson Miss Habersham
Porter Hall Nub Gowrie
David Clarke Vinson Gowrie
Elzie Emanuel Aleck
Lela Bliss Mrs. Mallison
Harry Hayden Mr. Mallison
Harry Antrim Mr. Tubbs
Alberta Dishmon Paralee
James Kirkwood Black Convict
Edmund Lowe Actor
Ephraim Lowe Gowrie Twin
John Morgan Actor
Dan White Will Legate
R.X. Williams Mr. Lilley

Technical Credits
Clarence Brown Director,Producer
Jack Dawn Makeup
Adolph Deutsch Score Composer
Randall Duell Art Director
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Ralph S. Hurst Set Decoration/Design
Robert J. Kern Editor
Ben Maddow Screenwriter
Robert Surtees Cinematographer
Edwin B. Willis Set Decoration/Design
William Faulkner Source Author

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