An earlier installment of this column had examined a 1931 gorillas-at-large movie called Ingagi as an unlikely long-term influence upon the popular culture as a class. Ingagi, a chump-change production built largely around misappropriated African-safari footage and staged mock-jungle sequences, tapped a popular fascination with apes as a class even as it fostered a generalized anti-enlightenment toward natural history and racial politics.
Strange, then, that the film should have inspired a sequel (unofficial, of course, and certainly in-name-only) from a resolutely Afrocentric sector of the motion-picture industry. The production resources behind 1940’s Son of Ingagi stem from white-capitalist niche-market corporate interests – but the screenwriter and star player, and his supporting ensemble cast, all represent a trailblazing movement in black independent cinema.
From momentum that he had developed beginning with Son of Ingagi at Alfred Sack’s Texas-based Sack Amusement Enterprises, Spencer Williams, Jr., attained recognition that would lead him to a role-of-a-lifetime breakthrough in 1950, with his casting as Andrew Brown on a CBS-Television adaptation of a long-running radio serial called Amos ’n’ Andy. Though created by white-guy talents Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, Amos ’n’ Andy needed black artists for its on-screen representation. (Gosden and Correll had gotten away with blackface portrayals in 1930’s Check and Double Check – the tactic would not have borne repeating by 1950.) The partners hired a pioneering showman of the pre-Depression Harlem Renaissance period, Flournoy E. Miller, as casting director for the CBS-teevee project, and Miller came through with such memorable presences as Williams, Tim Moore as George “Kingfish” Stevens and Alvin Childress as Amos Jones, Andy Brown’s business partner.