A Raisin in the Sun
In Once Upon a Time, When We Were Colored, many of the characters speak about life in the north during the 40's and 50's. This week's classic selection shows us the life they were dreaming about. Was it all that great?
A Raisin in the Sun is one of the greatest and most groundbreaking films of all time. Based on the play by Lorraine Hansberry, the film deals with complex issues in a way that is out of character for the times. Imagine another film in 1961 that confronted racism, abortion, middle class angst, generational strife, questions about God and assimilation vs. staying true to African roots. By the way, except for one role, the film has an all African American cast. Not only is it a fantastic movie for black history month, but a great film for all times.
Sidney Pottier stars as 35-year old chauffeur, Walter Younger. He is tired of being someone else's servant and dreams of striking it rich by owning his own business. Other friends have succeeded and he feels left behind, especially as his younger sister, Beneatha (Diana Sands), prepares for medical school.
They live in a crowded home. In addition to Walter's wife, Ruth (Ruby Dee) and son, the house also holds Beneatha and Walter's mother, Lena (Claudia McNeal). He thinks his ship has come in when Lena is awarded a $10,000 life insurance settlement for the loss of her husband.
Every family member seems to have plans for the money. Walter wants the $10,000 as down payment for a liquor store. Beneatha would like some of the money to pay for school. Lena wants to buy a house.
What will the family do with the money?
What can I say about the script and the play that hasn't been said before? As the family waits for the money, we learn so much about the family and African American attitudes during the earliest days of the Civil Rights movement. Hollywood's portrayal of African Americans was insulting during the early half of the century. They filled the roles of servants and comic relief characters. However, the film is a study of a family that could be African American or not. This movie showed American movie audiences a new side of life as an African American. These characters are the type of people found in every neighborhood. In 1961, this is a big deal.
Every performance is fantastic. Pottier is at the top of his game. He plays the character with the sense that he is being eaten alive by his desire to have a better life. Pottier makes the character appear mad with an unquenchable thirst for wealth. His reaction to the arrival of the check and the subsequent fallout is priceless.
Claudia McNeal is wonderful as the strong matriarch trying to do right by her family. She sees Walter's need to be a success and tries to do what she can to let him feel like a man. Check out Lena's fight about God with Beneatha. The audience learns everything it needs to know about Lena in that one sequence.
If you find this one on video, check it out this weekend.
Directed by Daniel Petrie
Written by Lorraine Hansberry
Based on the play by Lorraine Hansberry
Sidney Pottier Walter
Claudia McNeal Lena
Ruby Dee .. Ruth
Diana Sands .. Beneatha
Ivan Dixon . Asagai
John Fiedler .. Mark
Louis Gosset .. George
Copyright 2000 - WaffleMovies.com