Born for Hard Luck (1976)

About the Film

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.

A clip from this film appeared in Jean-Piere Jeunet's popular French feature Amelie. Born for Hard Luck is available on DVD from Davenport Films.

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


  • 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
  • 29mins, Black & White
  • Categories:
    Dance Music Narrative & Verbal Arts: Storytelling Aging African American Culture Theater/Dramatic arts