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Film, Video St. Louis blues Saint Louis blues

digital viewing copy

About this Item


  • St. Louis blues

Other Title

  • Saint Louis blues


  • Bessie arrives at her rooming house where the participants of a hallway craps game tell her that her man, Jimmy, has just gone to her room with a beautiful young woman. When she confronts the couple, Jimmy knocks her to the ground, and leaves with the other woman. Bessie begins to sing the blues. Later, in a nightclub, Bessie mournfully continues her song, accompanied by the band and the patrons. When she finishes, the band plays an upbeat tune and people begin to dance. Jimmy enters, laughing, glad-handing, and dancing up a storm. Everyone is delighted to see him. When the song ends, Jimmy calls out to Bessie, who turns and smiles, happy to have him back. They begin to dance. After a few minutes, Jimmie reaches down, steals Bessie's bankroll, and shoves her back to the bar. Holding up her money, he exits laughing, as Bessie returns to singing her sad song.


  • Murphy, Dudley, 1897-1968, film director, screenwriter
  • Currier, Richard, 1892-1984, film producer
  • Smith, Bessie, 1894-1937, actor, performer
  • Mordecai, Jimmy, actor
  • Powell, Isabel Washington, 1908-2007, actor
  • Johnson, James P. (James Price), 1894-1955, performer
  • Morris, Thomas, 1898- performer
  • Smith, Joe, 1902-1937, performer
  • Handy, W. C. (William Christopher), 1873-1958, composer, arranger
  • Johnson, J. Rosamond (John Rosamond), 1873-1954, arranger
  • Strenge, Walter, cinematographer
  • Sheilds, Russell, film editor
  • Oschmann, George, 1889-1948, recordist
  • Hall Johnson Choir, performer
  • Radio Pictures, production company
  • RKO Distributing Corp., film distributor
  • RKO Productions, copyright claimant
  • Sack Amusement Enterprises, film distributor

Created / Published

  • United States : RKO Distributing Corp., 1929 ; United States : Sack Amusement Enterprises.


  • -  Blues (Music)--Drama
  • -  African American singers--Drama
  • -  Gamblers--Drama
  • -  Betrayal--Drama


  • Musical films
  • Race films
  • Short films
  • Fiction films


  • -  LP1051 U.S. Copyright Office
  • -  Copyright: RKO Productions, Inc.; 8Sep29; LP1051.
  • -  Bessie Smith, Jimmy Mordecai, Isabel Washington.
  • -  Performers: James P. Johnson (piano), Thomas Morris (cornet), Joe Smith (cornet), Hall Johnson Choir.
  • -  Choral arrangements by W.C. Handy and Rosamund Johnson ; cinematographer, Walter Strenge ; edited by Russell Sheilds ; recordist, George Oschmann.
  • -  Produced at the Gramercy Studio of RCA Photophone, Inc., in Astoria, Long Island, N.Y. in June, 1929.
  • -  Parts of summary from the National Film Registry essay by Mark Cantor.
  • -  LC also holds a videocassette viewing copy in the Valburn/Ellington Collection.
  • -  This film was selected for the National Film Registry.
  • -  Sources used: Eagan, D. America's film legacy, 2010, p. 161-162; Meeker, Jazz in the movies; Sampson, Blacks in black and white, p. 66-67; Variety, September 4, 1929, p. 12 (ad) viewed March 20, 2023; Copyright catalog, motion pictures, 1912-1939, p. 737; Library of Congress WWW site viewed March 20, 2023, National Film Preservation Board pages (St. Louis Blues essay by Mark Cantor).


  • 1 video file (digital) (16 min.) : sd., b&w.
  • viewing print 2 film reels of 2 on 1 (16 min., 1,415 ft.) : sd., b&w ; 35 mm.

Call Number/Physical Location

  • FGF 1699 (viewing print)

Source Collection

  • AFI Theatre Collection (Library of Congress)

Digital Id

Library of Congress Control Number

  • 2023602002

Online Format

  • image
  • video

Additional Metadata Formats

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Credit Line: Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division.

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Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Murphy, Dudley, Film Director, Screenwriter, Richard Currier, Jimmy Mordecai, Isabel Washington Powell, Thomas Morris, J. Rosamond Johnson, Walter Strenge, et al. St. Louis blues. composeds by Handy, W. C. , Oser, Arranger, performeds by Smith, Bessie, Actor, Johnson, James P, Smith, Joe, and Hall Johnson Choir, produceds by Radio Picturesuction Company United States: RKO Distributing Corp., ; United States: Sack Amusement Enterprises, 1929. Video.

APA citation style:

Murphy, D., Currier, R., Mordecai, J., Powell, I. W., Morris, T., Johnson, J. R. [...] Sack Amusement Enterprises, F. D. (1929) St. Louis blues. Handy, W. C., comp, Smith, B., Johnson, J. P., Smith, J. & Hall Johnson Choir, performers, Radio Picturesuction Company, prod United States: RKO Distributing Corp., ; United States: Sack Amusement Enterprises. [Video] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Murphy, Dudley, Film Director, Screenwriter, et al. St. Louis blues. comp by Handy, W. C. , Oser, Arranger, performer by Smith, Bessie, Actor, et al., prod by Radio Picturesuction Company United States: RKO Distributing Corp., ; United States: Sack Amusement Enterprises, 1929. Video. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.