A couple of nights ago I saw the film “The Flying Ace”. Never heard of it? Well, neither had I.
The film was released in 1926 by The Norman Studio in Jacksonville, Florida. The plot of the film, as written at imdb.com states: “A veteran World War I fighter pilot returns home a war hero and immediately regains his former job as a railroad company detective. His first case: recover a stolen satchel filled with $25,000 of company payroll, locate a missing employee, and capture a gang of railroad thieves.”
The writer, producer, and director of the film was Richard E. Norman. According to his grandson, who was present at the screening, Richard E. Norman was “ahead of his time.” Richard E. Norman set out to showcase black life through inspirational characters. It was through his “race films” that Richard E. Norman set out to give Black audiences characters and stories they could aspire to.
On hand at the screening were historians, movie buffs, and aviation enthusiasts. Opening remarks were given by Dan Norman, the grandson of Richard E. Norman. Dan Norman is currently a Delta 757/767 Captain. Dan’s father was also an airline pilot. The film was accompanied by a conductor and musicians playing various instruments. This music brought the silent film to life.
For over an hour I sat transfixed at the screen as images of black people in roles of fighter pilot, love interest (believed to be inspired by the aviatrix Bessie Coleman), detective, and railroad manager played on the screen. I sat there thinking, “all of this happened in 1926!”
Tonight in Hollywood the 88th Academy Awards will be celebrated. Many of today’s Black actors and actresses plan not to be in attendance. The #OscarSoWhite movement has highlighted, once again, the lack of Black actors and actresses who have not been nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
According to Dan Norman this film will be available on DVD shortly as the music is currently being scored. When it becomes available I’ll be sure to pick up a copy. I encourage you to check it out as well.
Thanks Richard E. Norman for making this film. That’s entertainment!