tamango

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Dorothy Dandridge played in a 1950s Slave Revolt Film—Who Knew?!?

The film “Tamango” was set during the early 19th century, and groundbreaking for its time, since it dealt with the slave trade and a Dutch slave trader (with his slave cargo) sailing for Cuba. Dandridge played a slave mistress, who is swayed to support a mutiny on the ship.

Of course a 1950s film featuring an interracial romance and slave revolt that’s directed by a blacklisted “Communist” was bound to never see the light of day. Needless to say Tamango didn’t get much distribution. But this information was an interesting deviation from her seminal role as Carmen Jones.

Dorothy Dandridge as Aiché in Tamango (1958).

During cinema’s earliest years, most films that dealt with or depicted American slavery did so mainly through the eyes of white characters. Not only was Tamango one of the first films to depict the horrors of slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade through (some of) its black characters’ point-of-view, but it was also one of the first films to reenact a slave ship revolt–if not the first film to do so. The revolt was led by the title character, Tamango (played by Alex Cressan).

Tamango was shot and released in France and other parts of Europe, but was initially banned in French colonies and the United States due to the depiction of an interracial “romance” between Aiché (Dandridge) and her owner, the slave ship’s captain (played by Curd Jürgens).

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Powerful clip between the broken slave and unbroken slave. …