The Documentary by MELISSA HAIZLIP
Was held over after a  great opening weekend and historic gathering/conversation of Black Legends/Icons

Mr. Soul

By Iride Aparicio

SILICON VALLEY) The feature-length,  multi-awards winning  documentary  Mr. SOUL! (The  name, written with an exclamation mark following its name) produced, and directed by  MELISSA HAIZLIP  is based on the work of  her uncle, pioneer/producer  television Host  ELLIS HAIZLIP, whose television show has often been described as the first "Black Tonight show."

Mr SOUL! the documentary, may also be described as a historical documentary of Black Art, because, in its editing,  juxtaposed with news excerpts, many related to the Civil Rights Movement, it displays the performances  of  some of the Black artists, singers, instrumentalists, dancers, actors and poets, that ELLIS as host, presented  in " Mr SOUL!,"  the talk and talent show he produced and hosted in National Educational  Television N.E.T. from 1968 to l973 (before OPRAH and before ARSENIO)  when these performers were unknown.

Produced, directed and filmed by MELISSA HAIZLIP, Mr. SOUL !, the documentary opens with the date l968' written in white numbers over a black screen.  The next shot is in color.  On the screen, we focus  on a  portable television on a table, showing the letters ABC, then  NBC and CBS of the three National TV Networks. As we look at them, the VO (voice over man's voice) says:  "The day WHITE,  has every hour of television set to them. The BLACK, has none." this shot is follow by a short montage, in color, showing the names of several CBS programs and the VO saying:  "This is N.E.T. the Public television Network." as the letter  N, E, T, appear on the small television screen. The credits, roll  over the color  montage of  Black singers singing, interchanged with black and white and color head shots  of  Mr. SOUL!.   


Center ELLIS HAIZLIP facing the camera

 Mr. SOUL!  the documentary is based in the  life and career of  the  ELLIS HAIZLIP, a former theatre and Television actor in New York City, whose sexuality  fluidity may  have giving him the sensitivity necessary  to fully understand art. While in New York, in the mid-60s, HAIZLIP was approached by CHRISTOPHER LUKAS, the white director of cultural programming in  WNET (then WNDT) TV station, with the idea of  launching, as producer and host, a TV arts program for Black audiences. using the variety show format of the ED SULLIVAN SHOW with the purpose to present the Black culture on television, to  challenge the African American viewers to ponder the meanings of  their Culture, at the time where the Black community was experiencing a a social transformation

The initial founding for Mr. SOUL! the program, came from a combination of public and private sources, including a start-up grant from the FORD FOUNDATION and the program started with ALICE HILLE  as Associate Producer. Her  connections to Harlem's The Apollo Theater, actors and HAIZLIP links to the rhythm and blues world's musicians, made Mr SOUL! an immediately successful television program.


Center, Mr SOUL, ELLIS HAIZLIP and fans

As a television  host, ELLIS presented psychologists, teachers and Ministers as   speakers, in his program but what made Mr SOUL! unique, was because his TV show presented for the first time on National Television,   the art (talents)  of  Black Composers, songwriters,  musicians, dancers,  poets, painters and writers, who had been ignored in America for years, and gave them a chance to be seen and head for the first time.

In the documentary, the filmed original artists' performances are presented along with  snippets of American History: President Kennedy, and Senator Robert Kennedy assassinations,  Dr. Martin Luther King's Assassination, marches of the Black movent, the Vietnam protests, the Alabama Riots, and actual news snippets of  Black leaders warning the Black people that their taxes are being used to segregate them, and keep them "second class citizens."

But as a documentary, the essence of  Mr. SOUL!  is in the art, not in the upheaval of the country,  but by the way the politics and art are presented, it  allows the audience to make a parallel between the work of  ELLIS HAIZLIP  and the speeches of  Dr. MARTIN  LUTHER  KING. We need to remember first, however, that during the beginning of the sixties, the only Black persons showed on the National Television news, were   "Those who lived in poverty,"  or one caught selling  drugs, or who committed  a  crime, In his famous speech,  "I have a dream"
Dr. KING  managed to awake a generation of  Black people to begin looking at themselves in a different perspective. in Mr SOUL!, television show ELLIS HAIZLIP did the same, because, by  presenting  Black singers, like HARRY BELAFONTE, on television, SYDNEY POITIER (one of the first Black actors in Hollywood)  and new singers, songwriters, dancers, and multi-instrumentalists such as  STEVLAND JUDKINS, who developed into one of the most creative musical figures of the late 20th century,  and who is now known as "STEVIE WONDER."  HAIZLIP too,  managed to awake a generation of Black people  to " start dreaming, of themselves succeeding in other fields, including art. And looking now at a firmament of Black stars, working in Hollywood, on Broadway, at the Metropolitan Opera, in theatres, recording music alone or in groups, we wonder, how many of those, were inspired by those first Black performers presented by ELLIS in' Mr. SOUL!.   

So, the uniqueness of MELISSA HAIZLIP  Mr SOUL! is that it is more than a  documentary about the life and work of his uncle  ELLIS  HAIZLIP. It it a demonstration of  the birth of  Black Art as it happened, sang in the voices of its original interpreters, when it was first filmed and heard on National Television for the first time. Some of the music is wild, noisy, or sad, some of the lyrics of the songs, vulgar at times., The  rhythms are varied. The instrumentations are creative, but every sound is  authentic, It interpreted by Black people, it exposes  their. SOULS

Mr. SOUL! continues this week and Labor Day weekend in over 60 virtual Cinemas and Drive ins across the nation and will go on spreading love and happines through the weekend, to include September 12, the actual 52nd anniversary of the very first broadcast of the show, on September 12, 1968. For information go to

Filmmaker Melissa Haizlip talks about her film “Mr. Soul!” on ABC Good Morning America which remembers Ellis Haizlip, America’s first black nighttime talk show host: