Born for Hard Luck (1976)

A portrait of Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson --black harmonica player, singer, and comedian who made his living "busking" on the street and performing in patent-medicine shows touring southern towns. Footage includes excerpts from one of his last medicine shows, videotaped at a county fair in 1972, and material filmed near his home in South Carolina in 1975. The performance includes harmonica solos, songs, a parody of a chanted sermon, folktales and reminiscences, and three buck dances.

 For a discography on "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson, see Stephn Wirz's American Music

A clip from this film appeared in Jean-Piere Jeunet's popular French feature Amelie

If you are interested in other films about medicine shows, we recommend Free Show Tonight, by academy award winner Paul Wagner.

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American Film Festival, Sinking Creek Film Celebration -- Juror's Prize, Athens Film Festival -- Best Documentary, CINE Golden Eagle, Big Muddy Festival --Judges' award.


For licensing, film rights and permissions, contact Tom Davenport, the distributor Davenport Films, or Folkstreams.

Film Details

  • Film by: Tom Davenport
  • Produced by: Tom Davenport with Allen Tullos and Daniel Patterson
  • Cinematographer: Tom Davenport
  • Sound: Allen Tullos with Kip Lornell
  • Editor: Louise B. Steig
  • Other Credits: Assistant Filmmaker: Michael Higgins. Special thanks to Kip Lornell, Bruce Bastin, James Peacock, Charles Zug, and Pete Lowry.
  • Funding: Produced with grants from The North Carolina Arts Council and The National Endowment for the Arts
  • Original Format: Film: 16mm
  • ©1976, Tom Davenport
  • 29 mins, Black & White
  • Categories:
    African American CultureAgingHealing & MedicineMusicNarrative & Verbal Arts