Go Down, Death!


Religious race film from Spencer Williams of "Amos N' Andy" fame. More info from the film's IMDB page.

Go Down, Death! is a 1944 race film directed by and starring Spencer Williams (actor). The film’s title derives from a poem by the African-American writer James Weldon Johnson.< name=WOG></>< name=MMG>“Go Down Death,” The Mystical Movie Guide</>


Go Down Death takes place in an African-American community where the criminal boss Big Jim Bottoms (Spencer Williams) runs a successful juke joint. The arrival of a new preacher (Samuel H. James) to the town results in many of Big Jim’s customers leaving the juke joint in favor of attending church. Big Jim arranges for the preacher to be photographed in compromising situations with three attractive women. Aunt Caroline, Big Jim’s adoptive mother, becomes aware of the scheme and tries to prevent Big Jim from carrying out his blackmail scheme. There is a physical struggle between Aunt Caroline and Big Jim, resulting in Aunt Caroline collapsing after being struck. Aunt Caroline dies from her injuries, but Big Jim escapes arrest. But following Aunt Caroline’s funeral, Big Jim’s conscience haunts him with visions of eternal damnation in Hell. His body is later discovered in a canyon and the photographs of the preacher are nowhere to be found.</>< name="Weisenfeld"></> which had been an international success.
In the course of its distribution, Go Down Death ran into several censorship problems. The state censors for Maryland State Board of Censors, New York, and Ohio demanded that edits to the Hell sequence involving a brief exposure of a woman’s bare breast in a scene from L'Inferno, and the action of a woman pulling up her dress.< name=WOG />< name="Weisenfeld"/> Ohio censors also requested removal of an image from the Hell sequence where a devil is seen chewing a man.< name=WOG />

See also

  • Film censorship in the United States
  • List of films in the public domain
  • Nudity in film

Category:1944 films
Category:Black-and-white films
Category:English-language films
Category:Films directed by Spencer Williams
Category:Race films
Category:Films about Christianity

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