Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales
The great Richard Pryor played his first starring role (and made only his second film appearance) in this 1968 comedy about a white man on trial for raping a black woman. Not exactly the makings of high comedy, but if anybody could make that material work, it was Pryor; Uncle Tom also marked the directorial debut of Penelope Spheeris, who would go on to direct the Decline of Western Civilization movies and Wayne’s World, among others. But it never saw the light of a projector. The story that circulated for years was that Pryor’s then-wife complained that he was paying more attention to the movie then her, so Pryor (never known for his cool temperament) shredded the negative. (That’ll show her!) It was presumed lost forever, until clips from the film popped up in 2005 DGA tribute to Pryor (shortly before his death). Come to find out, Spheeris had held on to a print after all, which she donated to the film archive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Pryor’s seventh and final wife, Jennifer Lee-Pryor, filed a lawsuit against Spheeris and Pryor’s daughter Rain, accusing them of conspiring to steal the film from his home years earlier. Pryor died before the case went to trial; Uncle Tom remains in limbo.