During the silent film era, the Norman Film Manufacturing Company (based in Jacksonville, Florida) was one of the three leading producers of race films in America, along with the Lincoln Motion Picture Company (Omaha, Nebraska) and the Micheaux Film Corporation (Sioux City, Iowa and Chicago, Illinois).
The Norman company was founded in 1912 by Richard E. Norman and his brother Kenneth. They were two white producers from Florida who made and distributed several all black cast films. Between 1920 and 1928, the Norman Company made six feature films about black heroes and heroines.
On Saturday, July 17th, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will show the sole surviving production of the Norman Company, The Flying Ace (1926). It's the story of a crime-fighting ace pilot, a veteran of World War I who returns home a war hero and regains his former job as a railroad company detective. His first case involves the recovery of a stolen satchel filled with $25,000 of company payroll. He must also locate a missing employee, and capture a gang of railroad thieves.
The Flying Ace stars Lawrence Criner (as Capt. Billy Stokes), Kathryn Boyd (as Ruth Sawtelle, the love interest), and Steve Reynolds (as 'Peg' Reynolds, the one legged veteran who assists Capt. Stokes). Despite it being the product of a low budget indie studio, this film delivers. There is a lot to like about it, and a lot to look at. And, it has verve! Also, Steve Reynolds, as a criminal chasing, bicycle-riding, one-legged undercover assistant detective, is simply amazing.
Rita Reagan, from Norman Studios Silent Film Museum in Florida, will introduce the film. It's a rare screening, and shouldn't be missed.