Dixiana (1930) is a vaudevillian series of acts and skits set in the iconographic context of the Old South. The film brings almost every conceivable stereotype to bear on the evocation of its setting. It opens with images of slaves working in the fields and of the multi-columned plantation house that is one of the main locations. An early scene shows a man who appears to be the plantation patriarch sitting on the porch of the house, sipping a drink served by a house servant (anticipating one of the opening images of So Red the Rose). Two other locations are a playhouse and a gambling house in New Orleans. Mardi Gras celebrations are important in the film's latter half. In one scene a black actor dances to banjo music. African Americans are rarely anything more that clowns. The possibility of a duel is ever-present and provides the climactic scene, to the extent there is one.
The plot basically involves a young man, Carl Van Horn, who falls in love with a circus performer named Dixiana. He takes her home to introduce to her father and step-mother. The father is thrilled at his son's fiancé but the stepmother is horrified at the presence of a circus performer in her house and orders Dixiana to leave. The film follows the wandering fortunes of these two lovers who are separated after Dixiana's rejection from the plantation house.
What passes for comic relief comes in the form of Dixiana's two partners in the circus. They are played by Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsley, comedians from the 1930s who made a series of popular films for RKO Studios. Woolsley brandishes a cigar and glasses in a way that may have inspired the comedian George Burns. Woolsley and Wheeler perform as a comedy team, mimicking the behavior and actions of other characters in the film. Their comic shticks have virtually nothing to do with anything else in the film, although as the possibility of a duel between Van Horn and a corrupt gambler becomes increasingly likely (due to their competing interest in Dixiana), the two comic performers challenge one another to a duel for similar reasons.
The South in Dixiana is a place of exotic intrigue, fawning house servants, Mardi Gras celebrations, singing slaves, plantation houses, duels, romance, and cotton fields. With the exception of the duel, the South really has little to do with the plot of this film. The Van Horns themselves are from Pennsylvania; they moved to Louisiana when the father married his second wife. Few people in the film, excepting the African Americans, speak with a Southern accent. The numerous song and dance numbers that punctuate the film are typical Broadway-style performances—there is nothing Southern about them.
Interestingly, Carl jokes with his father about how the old man is always freeing the slaves. This is the only indication that the film does not accept slavery as normal. Perhaps the old man's desire to free slaves is meant to be seen as a sign of his weakness and old age.