16mm motion picture film of Underworld

Created by
Oscar Micheaux, American, 1884 - 1951
Written by
Oscar Micheaux, American, 1884 - 1951
Owned by
Bowser, Pearl, American, born 1931
16mm Film (a): acetate film;
16mm Film (b): acetate film
Duration: 70 Minutes
Length (Film), Reel 1: 1250 Feet
Length (Film), Reel 2: 1300 Feet
motion pictures (information artifacts)
Place filmed
Harlem, New York City, New York County, New York, United States, North and Central America
Place depicted
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States, North and Central America
In this 16mm black and white feature film, a young African-American man is persuaded by a gambler to move to Chicago after graduating from a Southern university. Once there, he gets involved in the criminal underworld of Chicago, falls for a dame, and is framed for murder.
This 16mm black and white feature film (a, b) was written and directed by renowed filmmaker Osacar Micheaux. This film is one example of "alternate versions", a common theme and plot structure in Oscar Micheaux's films. Underworld played at the Harlem Opera House in New York 30 Sep-3 Oct 1937
Consists of: 16mm Film (a)(b).
2012., 2012. 16mm black and white film.
After Paul Bronson graduates from a black college in the South, he accepts the invitation of Chicago gambler LeRoy Giles to vacation in Chicago. LeRoy, who has been having a secret affair for three years with singer Dinah Jackson, the wife of Sam Brown, owner of the Red Lily nightclub, has brought Paul to Chicago to fleece him, but Paul attracts Dinah's attention and they become involved during the next month. Paul wants to marry Dinah, but she refuses, saying she only wants their affair to continue as it is. After Paul refuses money offered by Dinah, he meets Evelyn Martin, who recognizes him from college and who is trying to run a beauty parlor. Evelyn and Paul have lunch together and are seen by LeRoy, whom Dinah has supported financially and who is upset about her affair with Paul. LeRoy tells Dinah about Evelyn, and she threatens to ruin Paul. After Paul tells Dinah that he has decided to go home, she arranges for LeRoy to drug and rob him. LeRoy doubles the dose and almost kills Paul. After Paul overhears LeRoy and Dinah discussing his money, he gets it back from LeRoy and, still groggy from the drug, goes to the Red Lily. Meanwhile, Sam's detectives tell him about Dinah's affair with LeRoy. When Sam catches them together, he orders her bank accounts closed and charge accounts canceled. LeRoy shoots Sam and puts the gun by his body. After Paul comes in dazed and picks up the gun, Dinah accuses him of killing Sam. She pays LeRoy to leave town and is able to keep Paul in town and away from Evelyn because of his confusion about the murder. However, Paul, now the manager of the Red Lily, meets Evelyn again, and after he tells Dinah he is through with her, she reports him to the police. After Dinah, on drugs and intoxicated, has a mental breakdown, her car is hit by a train and she is killed. Her affidavit seems certain to convict Paul when Ching Li, a Chinese man who worked and lived at the Red Lily, confesses to police that he witnessed the murder. Paul is freed and leaves the city with Evelyn.
Source: American Film Institute Catalog of Feature Films. 2016.
African American
American South
Race films
Urban life
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Pearl Bowser
Object number
Restrictions & Rights
Public Domain
See more items in
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Collection title
Pearl Bowser Collection
Media Arts-Film and Video
Data Source
National Museum of African American History and Culture

NOTE: Cataloging is an ongoing process and we may update this record as we conduct additional research and review. If you have more information about this object, please contact us at NMAAHCDigiTeam@si.edu.