Infiltrating Hollywood: The Rise and Fall of the Spook Who Sat by the Door


(thank you) Submitted by: Christine Acham & (thank you) Dir. by Cliff Ward

Infiltrating Hollywood: The Rise and Fall of the Spook Who Sat by the Door is an independent documentary on the controversial and FBI repressed 1973 black film The Spook Who Sat By the Door. The Spook Who Sat by The Door is widely hailed as a cult classic and one of the most important underground black productions of the era. Based on Sam Greenlee’s 1969 novel, a political satire and semi autobiography, the book imagined a world not very far from reality, in which integration would often occur due to the desire of organizations to appear politically correct, and not because of the belief in African American capability. In the narrative, political race baiting allows a

black man to be begrudgingly trained as a CIA agent. This politicized but underground “Spook” would then use the white perception of black simplicity and inadequacy to turn the tables on the establishment and challenge the oppressive forces in his community. The Spook also urged African Americans to realize that the source of their repression existed both inside and outside of the black community. It encouraged blacks to shake off these mental and physical shackles and take back control of their lives. Sam Greenlee wrote a screenplay based on his novel and with actor/director Ivan Dixon sought to produce the film version of his novel. The film faced numerous obstacles including little to no budget and the denial of film permits to shoot in the city of Chicago, the primary location of the novel. On the other hand Sam, Ivan and their cast and crew also experienced the incredible support of African American Mayor Richard Hatcher and the city of Gary, Indiana who stepped in when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley rejected the production of the film within his city limits. Infiltrating Hollywood then reveals the Br’er Rabbit principle of African American existence as Greenlee and Dixon played off of the film industry’s expectations of black themed films in the 1970s by cutting their dailies to look like a Blaxploitation film to obtain finishing funds from a major distributor. United Artists took the bait and was dismayed at the final production of the film, however were bound by contract to release The Spook. The Spook used the veil of the Blaxploitation film era to create an oppositional narrative. Instead of images of pimps and prostitutes perpetuated by Hollywood during the 1970s, the film portrayed black people who were willing to fight for their beliefs, to achieve freedom from oppression.

– Written by Christine Acham


On Monday, May 19, 2014 the world loss a solider for social change and freedom, and we loss a father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, and loving companion. Sam Greenlee, Jr. lent himself to the Foreign Service and the US Information Agency, but gave himself to his community, family, and friends. His life and legacy is one of service and commitment.

He was an author, film-maker, and music enthusiast. The book and feature film, “The Spook who sat by the door” will live forever – testifying to the seeds of racism and oppression deeply planted in the fabric of our nation, and the continual fight for freedom and justice.

We will celebrate his life and legacy on Friday, June 6, 2014 at the DuSable Museum for African American History in Chicago, Illinois starting at 6:30 PM. Your contribution will help the family meet their financial responsibilities and bring closure to some of his unfinished work. It is our hope to create a foundation in his name to support the communities he loved and the educational opportunities he deemed necessary for young people to explore new possibilities and perhaps launch system-changing movements.

Thank you for your loving support, thoughts, and prayers

SGJ Family