Director King Vidor took a huge risk for his sound film: a musical based on an idea he had been trying to get off the ground for most of a decade, the story of the African-American experience in the deep South using an all-black cast. According to some reviewers, “King Vidor’s Hallelujah is a cinematic marvel, shot on location in an energetic documentary style. It’s a tale of temptation and the restoration of faith amongst African-Americans in the rural south.”
An early talkie musical set and filmed in Memphis, scenes of cotton fields and bayous were filmed in eastern Arkansas. Vidor received an Academy Award Best Director nomination for the film in 1930. In 2008 it was named one of the "25 important motion pictures" when added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
While Hallelujah! is often remembered as the first movie with an all-black cast, a much lesser known musical, Hearts in Dixie, also starring an all-black cast, predated it by five months.