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Film / The Scar of Shame

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The Scar of Shame is a 1927 Melodrama film directed by David Perugini, featuring an all-Black cast.

Alvin Hillyard is a highly-educated, upper-class black man, who is a talented composer. He rescues Louise, an attractive but lower-class woman, from the clutches of her abusive stepfather Spike. Eddie, a scheming petty crook and bootlegger, also covets the lovely Louise. Alvin and Louise get married, but Alvin has doubts about the relationship and does not tell his wealthy parents about his new wife. Eddie observes this and concocts a scheme to lure Louise away from Alvin—one that has tragic consequences.

The Scar of Shame, produced by the Colored Players Film Corporation, is an early example of a "Race Film", a movie made with a black cast aimed at black audiences. Compare Within Our Gates, another silent "race film" made a few years before.


This movie contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Spike is a raging drunk who feeds his addiction with Eddie's bootleg liquor. When a temporarily sober Spike expresses some reluctance about luring Louise away from her husband, Eddie dangles a flask in front of him, and this is all it takes.
  • Author Tract: The film isn't subtle about its message, regarding the black community improving itself. Like when this bit of dialogue is put into Alvin's mouth via title card:
    "This is another instance of the injustices some of the women of our race are constantly subjected to, mainly through lack of knowledge of the higher aims in life."
  • Cardboard Prison: It's bad enough that Alvin got ahold of a file to hack at the bars to his cell. But when he hacks through said bars, and then bends them apart like they were made of rubber...
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  • Contrived Coincidence: With a side dose of Plot Hole. Alvin, having escaped from jail, has started up a prosperous music school under an assumed name and fallen in love with Alice, one of his students. Alice's father, as it happens, happens to be interested in none other than Louise, unbeknownst to Alvin. So apparently Alvin hid out from the cops in his own hometown.
  • Driven to Suicide: Louise kills herself after Alvin rejects her.
  • Fainting: Louise does this after Alvin saves her from her abusive stepfather Spike.
  • Fixing the Game: Louise helps Eddie win at poker by carefully manipulating the mirror in her compact to let him get a look at the other players' cards.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Eddie is shown ostentatiously puffing on a cigar. Spike is constantly smoking a cigarette. Alvin, the upstanding hero, never smokes.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: After showing Louise and Eddie at Eddie's nightclub, the film cuts to Alvin in "a place not so gay", namely, prison.
  • Time Skip: A few, the biggest being a two-year skip that takes place while Alvin's in prison.
  • Uptown Girl: Alvin, who comes from a "high caste" family, has mixed feelings about getting involved with low-class Louise.
  • Wedding Ring Removal: Louise takes off her wedding ring, and rips up her marriage license, after Alvin admits that he hasn't even told his mother about their marriage.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Spike is brutal and vicious towards his step-daughter.

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