As part of their celebration of Black History Month, Norman Studios Silent Film Museum will screen Richard Norman’s The Flying Ace (1927) in Tallahassee and Gainesville on February 4th and 5th, respectively.

The film, starring Kathryn Boyd and Lawrence Criner, is based on the story of Bessie Coleman, the first African American female pilot, who made a living as a stunt pilot (or barnstormer) for paying audiences in the days before commercial aviation.  Norman and Coleman had been in discussion to film a movie about Coleman’s life starring Coleman, but when Coleman tragically died in a crash in 1926, Norman cast Boyd to play a character based on Coleman.

Image The ‘Six Smashing Reels of Action’ of The Flying Ace constitute the only surviving full length film by Richard Norman, a prominent director and distributor of silent race films in the 1920s.  Though The Flying Ace is Norman’s most famous film, Norman Studios also produced the race films The Love Bug (1919), The Bull-Dogger (1921), The Crimson Skull (1922), Regeneration (1923), Black Gold (1928), filmed (and marketed) with all-black casts. 

Norman always produced silent films, never making the switch to talkies.  After his career as a director, he work to distribute films, and showed a number of Oscar Micheaux films as well as Hollywood films and lesser known titles. Norman Studios, after being phased out, were forgotten until their rediscovery in 1999.  Today, the site of the studios has been made into the Norman Studios Silent Film MuseumThis short video, made by the Museum, examines the films of Norman and tells about the Museum, which is dedicated to “preserving the legacy of silent film in Northeast Florida.” 

The Black Film Center/Archive shares in this legacy by tending to the Richard E. Norman Collection, which was donated by Richard Norman, Jr. in 1984 and contains distribution records, correspondence, film publicity, posters, photographs, censorship materials, and fiscal statements.

‘The Greatest Airplane Mystery Thriller Ever Produced’ will be showing at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee at 11 a.m. on the 4th, and at the Hippodrome Theater in Gainesville at 7:30 p.m. on February 7th, which will be a double feature with The Emperor Jones, starring Paul Robeson as Brutus Jones.

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