Praise Be, SMU Gets a Grant to Restore Historic Blood of Jesus

The announcement came three weeks ago, but I just noticed on SMU's Web site that National Film Preservation Foundation has given the university a generous donation so it can do the Lord's work -- in this case, preserving a pioneer filmmaker's work about, well, the Lord. The G. William Jones Film and Video Collection is getting $27,270 to spruce up Spencer Williams' 1941 The Blood of Jesus, about a murdered wife's choice between heaven and hell. The university will strike new negatives and prints from a cleaned-up 35mm print, the original of which currently resides on the Hilltop. (You can watch the entire film here; it takes about an hour, which I know you've got to spare today.)

The donation's significant for a number of reasons, chief among them The Blood of Jesus sits on the National Film Registry (between Blazing Saddles and The Blue Bird, no less) and was shot in Texas with dough provided entirely by Dallas's Alfred Sack, who distributed so-called race films at a time when there were but a handful of African-American filmmakers if that. Williams was eventually best known for appearing as Andy on TV's Amos 'n Andy, but The Blood of Jesus was "probably the most popular movie made for African-American audiences before World War II," says National Film Preservation Board member Jacqueline Stewart. SMU will debut the new print in February at the Oscar Micheaux conference at Columbia University, so named for the best-known of Williams's contemporaries. --Robert Wilonsky

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