LUCKY GHOST (1942)
Directed by William Beaudine
Featuring Mantan Moreland, F.E. Miller, Maceo Bruce Sheffield
What it is: All-black ghost comedy
Two drifters hit the big time when they take two rich men on in a crap game and visit a nightclub with gambling. However, the owner of the nightclub is a very jealous man... and the club is also haunted.
I've encountered Mantan Moreland many times, most notably in KING OF THE ZOMBIES
and an assortment of Charlie Chan films, but this is the first time I've caught him as the headliner in an all-black film. It looks like he was part of a comedy team known as Miller and Moreland at this time, but Miller is largely the straight man to Mantan's antics. Mantan is as energetic as ever, and even though he doesn't quite get as many great lines as he did in KING OF THE ZOMBIES, he makes up for it by doing some great physical comedy; we even get a chance to see him dance. The biggest downside of the movie is that it makes extensive use of what is for me the most tiresome of the black stereotypes of the era - their supposed obsession with gambling with dice; in fact, most of the plot is centered around this concept. At least it's not your usual "old dark house" story; the ghosts are portrayed as real, and often manifest themselves as skeletons. Still, I think Mantan fans will feel they got their money's worth with this one, and it is a bit of fun.