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Richard E. Norman Collection

Biographical Note

Richard Edward Norman (1891-1960) began his film production career around 1912. In 1916 he made The Green-Eyed Monster, an all-white drama which he later remade with an all black cast and additional scenes (now called Green-Eyed Monster, dropping the article). This was the beginning of his interest in black or race films, a new market that was being forged by producers like Oscar Micheaux and the Lincoln Motion Picture Company. Over time, Norman made many other films using black casts, including The Bull-Dogger (1921), The Crimson Skull (1921), Regeneration (1923), The Flying Ace (1926), and Black Gold (1928). The Flying Ace was a particular success, grossing close to $20,000 through Norman’s distribution efforts.

Norman never crossed over from silent films to talkies, which he thought was a major part of his economic success. Norman's films were always able to generate a profit, even in lean economic times. His policy was not to pay his stars more than $75 a week and he usually completed production in less than one month's time. He distributed his films himself, concentrating his efforts mainly in the south, and then selling the rights to other film exhibitors to distribute to various other regions. His films played from Texas to New York.

Norman kept in contact with both black and white producers, often buying the rights to their pictures and showing them along with his own. He showed Oscar Micheaux films as well as Hollywood serials, and lesser features. In the forties he began distributing Joe Louis fights and films that featured performers such as Lena Horne.

Norman died in 1960. The accounts of his studio continue to attract scholars and lay people. His son, Richard Norman, Jr., graciously donated the Norman studio records and materials to the Black Film Center/Archive for use in further research of this phenomenal enterprise.