The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Blackness
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Monday, December 10, 2012

The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (1959)

"The World, the Flesh and the Devil" (1959) is an American doomsday film starring Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens, and Mel Ferrer. Ranald MacDougall directed and wrote the screenplay based on the novels "The Purple Cloud" by M. P. Shiel and the story "End of the World" by Ferdinand Reyher. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was responsible for the movie distribution, and Harry Belafonte's production company, Harbel Productions, helped co-produce the film.

Belafonte takes center stage in this doomsday film during a post-apocalyptic nuclear fallout. His role is similar to Will Smith's in "I Am Legend," but without the zombies, as he is a lone actor in the movie's first half. Before starring in "The World, the Flesh and the Devil," Belafonte appeared in three films with Dorothy Dandridge. While his acting and singing were plentiful in those films, "The World, the Flesh and the Devil" allowed him to show his talent to a higher level.

Like many Hollywood films starring a black actor, and even in a doomsday film, it's impossible to escape the social commentaries of relations. Nevertheless, Belafonte's character, Ralph, eventually meets a young white woman, Sarah (Inger Stevens), and the two try to create some normalcy in the deserted New York City. But, in a lonely world between a man and a woman, the two are still ensconced America's ideologies of race. However, Ralph is black, and Sarah is 'free, white, and 21.' A catchphrase used in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Mel Ferrer's character, Benson, is another survivor who enters the dynamic, causing additional tensions as he falls for Sarah. 

This movie has many layers, and because there are only three actors, all three must display engaging acting skills. Belafonte delivered an excellent performance and showed why the producers chose him for the part. 

Director: Ranald MacDougall
Writers: M.P. Shiel (novel "The Purple Cloud"), Ferdinand Reyher (story "End of the World"), Ranald MacDougall (screenplay)

Starring Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens, Mel Ferrer

Ralph Burton is a miner trapped for several days due to a cave-in. When he finally digs himself out, he realizes that humanity seems to have been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. He travels to New York City only to find it deserted. Making a life for himself there, he is stunned to find Sarah Crandall, who also survived. Together, they form a close friendship until the arrival of Benson Thacker, who has managed to pilot his small boat into the city's harbor. At this point, tensions rise between the three, particularly between Thacker, a white man, and Burton, a black man.