African American Film Pioneers: Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A.
In Spencer Williams’ adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham short story “Miss Thompson,” nightclub performer Gertie La Rue (Francine Everett) escapes to a Caribbean resort after two-timing her Harlem boyfriend. Ready to entertain the tourists and G.I.s stationed nearby, Gertie must first face the demons of her past, as well as an intolerant reformer who condemns Gertie’s sultry moves and vows to chase her back to Harlem. Dirty Gertie was a crossover success for independent director Williams whose many films (Blood of Jesus, Go Down Death) stand as a cornerstone of American Black cast productions. In a fabulous cameo, Williams appears as an old fortune-teller who gives Gertie bad news. With short films.
(Spencer Williams, 1946, 60 min., 35mm print courtesy of Southern Methodist University)
Allyson Nadia Field is Associate Professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies.