Masterful film biographer Patrick McGilligan brings to life the 20th century's greatest unknown director: The complex visionary who pioneered African American cinema, yet died penniless and forgotten. Oscar Micheaux was the Jackie Robinson of film, the black D. W. Griffith: a bigger-than-life American folk hero. Early on he was inspired by Jack London to write fiction, and began an entrepreneurial career successfully publishing a series of his own autobiographical novels. In 1919, he formed his own film production company after Hollywood failed to bid high enough for film rights to his stories, he went on to produce or direct twenty-two silent and fifteen sound films in his lifetime. Now, in a feat of historical investigation and vivid storytelling, one of our greatest film biographers takes on one of the greatest and most complex figures in the history of American entertainment. In this searching exploration, McGilligan tracks down long-lost financial records, unpublished letters, and unmarked pauper's graves, pinpointing his birthplace, his tangled personal life, the circumstances of his tragic death.
The result is an epic that bridges a fascinating period in American history, and offers lessons for anyone who would understand the role of black America in forming the culture of our time.
Patrick McGilligan's biographies include the Edgar-nominated Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light; Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast; and George Cukor: A Double Life. The author of several New York Times Notable Books of the Year, he has also penned biographies of Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Robert Altman, and James Cagney