Lying Lips

16mm motion picture film of Lying Lips

Directed by
Oscar Micheaux, American, 1884 - 1951
Written by
Oscar Micheaux, American, 1884 - 1951
Subject of
Harris, Edna Mae, American, 1910 - 1997
Produced by
Oscar Micheaux, American, 1884 - 1951
16mm Film (a): acetate film;
16mm Film (b): acetate film;
16mm Reel (c): metal;
16mm Reel (d): metal;
35mm Film Canister (e): plastic
Duration: 56 Minutes
Length (Film Reel 1): 1100 Feet
Length (Film Reel 2): 1000 Feet
motion pictures (information artifacts)
Place filmed
New York City, New York County, New York, United States, North and Central America
Place depicted
United States, North and Central America
A nightclub singer is wrongfully convicted of murder. A detective with romantic motivation, sets out to prove her innocence.
2015.167.13.1ab: 16mm black and white films.
2015.167.13.1cd: Original metal, 16mm film reels.
2015.167.13.1e: 35mm Film Canister.
Nightclub singer, Elsie Bellwood, refuses to go out with two Italian customers who want to sponsor a party with some of the showgirls, despite the urgings of her white boss, Farina. Farina decides to call on her black manager, Benjamin Hadnott, to try to convince her, but Ben refuses and quits his job. That evening, Elsie has dinner with Ben, who tells her that he has been studying to become a detective. Believing he is trying to conceal his unemployment, Elsie decides to take care of Ben until he gets a new job. One evening, Elsie is summoned to her Aunt Josie's, only to find that Josie has been killed. When the police arrive, the white police lieutenant decides to arrest Elsie, even though black detective Wanzer believes she is innocent. Desperate, Elsie gives Ben's address to Wanzer, and he and Ben agree to do what they can to help her. Elizabeth Green, Elsie's cousin, suggests a possible motive for the murder when she tells the police that Elsie had taken out a large insurance policy on her aunt. Meanwhile, Elsie's cousins, "John" and "Clyde," who have been hired by Farina to replace Ben, claim they saw Elsie leave the club for a half hour around the time of the murder. Although she denies their statement, Elsie is convicted of the murder. When Ben and Wanzer learn that "Ned" Green, Elizabeth's husband, was in love with Josie, they question Reverend Bryson, a longtime friend of the family, who tells them the story of Ned: Elizabeth forced Ned to marry her by tricking him into believing that she was pregnant. When Ned found out that she had lied, he left her without waiting for an annulment. Elizabeth and her unscrupulous brothers then followed Ned to the north, where he went to be near his true love, Josie. John and Clyde eventually found Ned and forced him to return to Elizabeth. Now, years later, Ned has disappeared again, and to help find him, Ben suggests that he and Wanzer abduct John and tell him they are taking him for a ride to haunted Tolston Manor. When they accuse John of killing Josie, he admits that he lied to shift the blame to Elsie. Ned, it is learned, decided he would kill Josie if she did not run away with him. When the police realize that the frame-up was planned in order to get the insurance money from Elsie, Elsie is released from prison. Once reunited with Ben, Elsie gives him the money, which he puts into a trust fund for their 'children'.
Source: AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Accessed August 11, 2016 (
African American
Race films
Urban life
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Randall and Sam Nieman
Object number
Restrictions & Rights
Unknown - Restrictions Possible
See more items in
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Collection title
Nieman Film Collection
Media Arts-Film and Video
Data Source
National Museum of African American History and Culture

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