This movie had an incredibly troubled history. Hollywood would not touch Native Son even during its brief 1940s flirtation with liberalism. A 1944 Orson Welles stage production with Canada Lee playing the teen-aged gang member Bigger Thomas, though critically successful, had been quashed by the Catholic Legion of Decency. Wright's novel was sold through the Book of the Month -- its first African-American author -- and won incredible notices. It also scared the daylights out of mainstream white culture. He sympathetically portrayed an African-American murderer (the Legion's stated complaint about the play), unambiguously showed white female desire for a black male and gave a rather jaundiced view of the left-wing, jazz-loving bohemia hidden among the youth of the very wealthy. (And by portraying the thrill seekers of the left as merely that, Wright also alienated many of his Communist and left-wing friends.) It was all too much for Hollywood. Still, a number of people tried to get a film of the play made independently with Canada Lee eventually opting to shoot in Argentina with a French director (not Welles). However, Lee couldn't get out of the U.S. (Oddly enough, he and Sidney Poitier were sneaked into Apartheid South Africa as indentured servants that year so they could appear in Zoltan Korda's masterful adaption of Cry, The Beloved Country.) At the last minute, Wright was called upon to play the lead role and he is terrible! The great writer could not act. He does the one thing a serious black actor should never do -- he pops his eyes constantly. In fairness, the production values are outstanding. This is basically a crime story with a racial subtext and Chenel nails the film noir ambiance. Unfortunately, the supporting actors are Argentinian with Americans dubbing their voices. And there's Wright, already over 40 -- too old to play bigger teenager Thomas -- popping his eyes. When I saw this screened at the AFI, Stanley Crouch, who had written a laudatory essay about the film, spoke afterwords. I seriously wondered if he had seen the movie before he wrote about it. Crouch mumbled throughout his question and answer session and the audience kept telling him to speak louder. The movie deserves preservation simply because of its historic significance but not a wide audience. Read the novel instead.
In 1940s Chicago, a young black man takes a job as a chauffeur to a white family, which takes a turn for the worse when he accidentally kills the teenage daughter of the couple and then tries to cover it up.
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
February 22, 2021 at 10:47 PM