EXPLORING RACIAL POLITICS IN CLARENCE BROWN’S
INTRUDER IN THE DUST (1949)
Dr. Gwenda Young
The African American writer Ralph Ellison noted that of the four “race problem” films released by Hollywood in 1949, only one, MGM’s Intruder in the Dust, “could be shown in Harlem without arousing unintended laughter.” Produced by Dore Schary, the film was a pet project for director Clarence Brown, best known for his work with Garbo in the 1930s. Born in Massachusetts but raised in the South, Brown witnessed the Atlanta riots of 1906 and remained deeply affected by them. Using archival sources and unpublished interviews with Brown and Claude Jarman (who played the role of Chick Mallison), this paper examines how Brown’s complex and ambivalent attitude to race helped shaped the production, and also investigates how it was received in the white and black press, in America and beyond.
Gwenda Young is lecturer in Film Studies in University College Cork. She has contributed articles to a range of US and European journals and to the recent collections, American Cinema of the 1920s: Themes and Variations ed. Lucy Fischer (2009) and Screening Irish America ed. Ruth Barton (2009). Her monograph on American director Clarence Brown will be published in 2013. She has also co-edited a collection (with Eibhear Walshe) on the Anglo-Irish writer, Molly Keane (2005).