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Poster for Pioneers of African American Cinema: The Flying Ace (1929) with live accompaniment by the Columbus Jazz Orchestra

Pioneers of African American Cinema: The Flying Ace (1929) with live accompaniment by the Columbus Jazz Orchestra

Opens on February 1

Director: Richard E. Norman Run Time: 65 min. Release Year: 1926

Starring: Boise De Legge, Harold Platts, Kathryn Boyd, Laurence Criner, Lions Daniels

Country: United States
Language: Silent with English intertitles

Thanks to the generous support of Donna and Larry James, Ingram White Castle Foundation, and Columbus City Council, Pioneers of African American Cinema returns for programming throughout 2024. On Thursday, February 1st, we will present the opening night selection, Richard E. Norman’s The Flying Ace (1929), with Columbus Jazz Orchestra live accompaniment.

Additional financial support provided by the Greater Columbus Arts Council, Tom and Mary Katzenmeyer, Amundsen Davis and the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority.

This is a private screening. To learn more about organization or individual sponsorship opportunities, please contact us at

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About the film:

A veteran World War I fighter pilot returns home a war hero and immediately regains his former job as a railroad company detective. His first case: recover a stolen satchel filled with $25,000 of company payroll, locate a missing employee, and capture a gang of railroad thieves.

Unlike his 1923 film Regeneration, Richard Norman’s The Flying Ace exists in its entirety, and the image quality is stunning. A rural crime drama revolving around a pair of rival aviators, The Flying Ace illuminates the fact that many films made for African-American audiences were less concerned with race than with making popular entertainment in the traditional Hollywood style.

Filmed in the Arlington area of Jacksonville, Florida, The Flying Ace is a unique aviation melodrama in that no airplanes actually leave the ground (the spectacular flight scenes being performed on terra firma, in front of neutral backdrops). Norman divided the film into four chapters, so that exhibitors could show the film as a feature or as a four-episode serial. The film is buoyed by the presence of Norman Studios regular Steve “Peg” Reynolds as the hero’s one-legged sidekick (no pun intended), who in one memorable scene rides a bicycle while firing a rifle built into the shaft of his crutch.

This version of the film is mastered in HD from 35mm elements from the Norman Studios Collection, preserved by The Library of Congress.

About the filmmaker:

Richard E. Norman was a Southern-born white filmmaker and one of the most prominent and most prolific of the early race producers. From 1919 until 1928, his Norman Film Manufacturing Company turned out high-quality black cast, black-oriented feature pictures that Norman wrote, produced, edited, financed, and distributed himself. Those pictures eschewed demeaning racial depictions and portrayed characters who were ambitious and enterprising professionals: bank presidents, superintendents, advertising directors, engineers, doctors, captains, detectives, pilots, ranchers, lawmen, and educators.

Yet, like the contributions of his contemporaries Oscar Micheaux and the Johnson Brothers, Norman’s contribution to American cinema was long neglected and his achievements under-appreciated. Only in recent years has Norman’s work received some of the critical and popular attention that it richly deserves. His shorts and features include Green-Eyed Monster (1919), The Bull-Dogger (1921), The Crimson Skull (1921), Regeneration (1923), and his company’s most successful and only surviving film, The Flying Ace (1926).

See our upcoming films
Donna and Larry James
Ingram White Castle Foundation
Columbus City Council
Greater Columbus Arts Council
Tom and Mary Katzenmeyer
Amundsen Davis
Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority
Ohio Arts Council
Greater Columbus Arts Council
The Columbus Foundation
Campus Partners
National Endowment for the Arts
CD 92.9 FM
G&J Pepsi
WOSU Public Media
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