Tag Archives: African-American film

VIC DICKENSON by MACEO BRUCE SHEFFIELD

Sharp-eyed reader, long-time friend, and diligent collector Rob Rothberg noticed that the photograph of Lucille Hall and Vic Dickenson showsn in an earlier post was credited to the Sheffield studios.  with typical generosity, he offers his Sheffield portrait study of a handsome Vic. 

Rob wants to know if the “Maceo B. Sheffield” credited here is also the pioneering African-American actor, 1897-1959.

I also would like to know more about Maceo Bruce Sheffield (or Scheffield), who appeared as “Chief of Wazini” in the 1921 silent THE ADVENTURES OF TARZAN.  He also acted in and produced films between 1939 and 1947. 

Patt Morrison, writing in the Los Angeles Times in 1999, confirms that he was multi-talented: “movie serial stuntman, the West’s first Negro aviator, LAPD cop and opera impresario.”  I read elsewhere that Sheffield was a police officer before he became an actor. 

A man who knew something of photography, backgrounds, and poses might have opened his own portrait studio.  In the University of Massachusetts at Amherst W.E.B. DuBois archive, there’s a photograph of DuBois and others credited to Sheffield in 1951.  I found that Vera Jackson (a pioneering Black woman photojournalist) first worked in Sheffield’s studios.  But does anyone know more?

For now, I’ll just gaze happily at Vic.  Thanks, Rob!

 

BLACK AND TAN . . . AT THE POST OFFICE

Ordinarily, I don’t feel a need to promote the Post Office.  I look forward to my mail; I have pleasant relationships with mail carriers.  But the USPS seems a ubiquitous business that doesn’t need publicity from me.  However, I am finicky about the stamps I buy, and carefully consider their appearance and their messages before buying them.

When I went to my Post Office today and asked what new 42-cent stamps they had, I was offered sunflowers, Latin jazz, baseball games, Bette Davis, Alzheimer’s research, and a few others.  Latin jazz and Bette Davis were competing for my attention until I saw this sheet:

“Vintage Black Cinema” I can support wholeheartedly: homages to Paul Laurence Dunbar, Duke Ellington and Fredi Washington, Josephine Baker, Nina Mae McKinney, and Louis Jordan, as well as African-American film production companies going back to 1921.  I bought two hundred stamps, which will get me into 2009 in fine cinematic style.  Maybe next year the USPS will consider a second series, including SEPIA CINDERELLA, BOY! WHAT A GIRL, and JAMMIN’ THE BLUES, among others?

Putting these stamps on the envelopes that hold my bills won’t make that task seem any easier, but the stamps themselves give pleasure — not only for the way they look (I grew up around films and movie theatres) but what they represent.

For more information about the stamps, the designers of the film posters, and the films themselves. visit http://www.usps.com. (The link to the stamps themselves is http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2008/sr08_074.htm., but it hasn’t been particularly responsive.)