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    St. Louis Blues (1929)

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    A two-reeler made both for “race theater” distribution and RKO’s experiments with early recording of musical shorts in its theater chains, “St. Louis Blues” features the only film recording of Bessie Smith, “Queen of the Blues,” backed by an outstanding cast of African-American artists. According to film historian Donald Bogle, the film “was marred by its white director’s overstatement, but it was distinguished by Bessie Smith’s extraordinary ability to express black pain. … Haughty, husky, hungry, earthy, confident, and supremely committed to her music, Bessie Smith is magnificently larger than life here, a t