Brother Martin: Servant of Jesus (lost race film; 1942)
Brother Martin: Servant of Jesus is a 1942 religious film written by, directed by, and starring Spencer Williams. The film belongs to the race film genre, consisting of all-black casts that tailored to African-American interests of the time. It's also noteworthy for containing a version of the famous spiritual song "Nobody Knows the Troubles I've Seen."
Williams plays an uncle who discusses the life of Martin de Porres with his niece. de Porres was a late 16th-century Peruvian who was elevated to sainthood in 1962 by Pope John XXIII.
Williams directed a series of religious films in the 1940s, this one came with the tagline: "The story of a Negro that loved God."
This is the only film by Williams considered lost. No film archives are known to hold a print, but a trailer is known to survive and has been seen by Judith Weisenfeld, author of Hollywood be Thy Name: African American Religion in American Film, 1929-1949.cShe references it shortly in the book, saying:
"The advertising trailer for Brother Martin gives little sense of the film's narrative, focusing instead on introducing the figure of Martin de Porres and the elements of his history that led to his beatification."
On August 16th, 2022, the UCLA & Film Television Archives uploaded the film's trailer on their official YouTube account making it available to be watched online. The 3-minute and 53-second trailer reveals more details about the lost film, implying that the film's title refers to an Afro-Peruvian Dominican saint named Martin de Porres that lived in the 16th century, and that Williams, who plays "Uncle Jed" in the film, tells stories and narratives about said Saint Brother Martin. As of 2022, there are still no known copies of the film to have been found, and it is still considered lost.
- Wikipedia article. Retrieved 02 Apr '16.
- A review of the film. Retrieved 02 Apr '16.
- Hollywood be Thy Name: African American Religion in American Film, 1929-1949 by Judith Weisenfeld. Retrieved 02 Apr '16.
- UCLA's article on Brother Martin: Servant of Jesus' trailer.Retrieved 16 Jan '23