Introducing "Uncle Tom"
James B. Lowe, in Playing Famous Character in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," Has Established a New Standard for the Negro in Motion Pictures.
THE life of every screen player, of prominence is a colorful one. In many instances the story of his, or her, struggle for recognition, the disappointments and the heartaches would furnish much better screen material than the part they portray before the camera.
Of them all, it is doubtful if a story can be found that equals the varied career of James B. Lowe, whose portrayal of Uncle Tom in the mammoth Universal production, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," not only raises that actor to stellar heights hitherto unthought of, but establishes a new standard for the Negro in the motion picture industry.
Long Struggle with Racial Handicaps
Lowe is 46 years old and has been in pictures a little more than three years. The remaining 43 years have been a long, upward struggle of a boy and man determined to overcome racial handicaps or to be a success in spite of them.
Lowe was born in Macon, Ga., where he attended grade school and high school with other members of his race. Even then he was a leader, and his zest for knowledge together with his ability to assimilate it made him a sort of oracle among the Negroes.
When the Alaskan gold rush swept the country, Lowe made his way to the far North all by himself. He tried picking a fortune from the ground, failed, and philosophically turned to the tailoring business. He was a good tailor, one of the best in the Klondike, and he saved enough money to return to Chicago and open his own shop. Business wasn't so good there, and he drifted to Philadelphia, New York, Montreal and several other large cities before eventually reaching Los Angeles.
Non-Com. During the War
When war was declared, Lowe enlisted, and in a remarkably short time was promoted to the rank of Quartermaster Sargeant, a rank by the way, that was held only by four Negroes during the World War.
The Armistice found him broke and getting along in years. Walter Hiers, the well-known screen comedian, opened a tailoring shop in Hollywood, and Lowe succeeded in convincing the actor that he was the man to do the work.
It was not long before the many directors and actors who patronized the shop recognized Lowe as a type, and soon he was called to the various studios to portray small bits. He played butlers, cooks and small comedy parts for a year or more.
Played "Emperor Jones"
Then came his first big opportunity. The management of the Potboiler Art Theatre in Los Angeles wanted to produce "Emperor Jones." The director went to Central Avenue, the centre of the colored district of Los Angeles, where Lowe was, and still is, the acknowledged leader. He intended asking Lowe where he could find a colored actor to play "Emperor Jones," but ended by engaging Lowe himself.
The play created a sensation, for which Lowe received the main credit. Other parts followed at the same theatre. He played the executioner in "Salome," the servitor in "Failures," and an important part in Andreyev's "Life of Man."
When Harry Pollard was given the important task of directing "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Carl Laemmle, president of Universal, he was besieged on all sides by colored actors wanting to play the title role. Pollard, however, bided his time, sat through a performance at the Potboilers and at the conclusion of the show signed Lowe's name to a contract.
Olympian to Own Race
The scores of other members of his race who are in the pictures regard Lowe as an Olympian. He settles their arguments, adjusts their make-up and in some cases designs their costumes.
Lowe is a prolific reader and philosopher of a sort, realizing better than anyone "that never the twain shall meet," and through all his work he is respectful, courteous and conscientious.
Success is always deserving of credit—and James B. Lowe is that.
THE S.S. "Northern Lights," a schooner engaged in the salmon fishing trade in the Alaskan waters, has been chartered by Universal to be used by Lynn Reynold in "Back to God's Country."