A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

A Raisin in the Sun
Directed by Daniel Petrie
Written by Lorraine Hansberry
Columbia Pictures Corporation
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental


What happens to a dream deferred?// Does it dry up/ like a raisin in the sun?/ Or fester like a sore—/ And then run?/ Does it stink like rotten meat?/ Or crust and sugar over—/ like a syrupy sweet?// Maybe it just sags’ like a heavy load.// Or does it explode?  – “Harlem” by Langston Hughes

This film was made at a critical moment in the course of the civil rights movement in America.  More than a time capsule, however, it is an excellent and powerful film with an extraordinary cast.

Five members of the  Younger family live in a dilapidated two-bedroom apartment.  The young son of Ruth (Ruby Dee) and Walter Younger (Sidney Portier) sleeps on the sofa. The family shares a bathroom with the other tenants on their floor.

Walter works as a chauffeur and his mother and wife work as domestics.  Walter is angry.  He wants a lot more than this.  His dream is to open a liquor store with some friends. Walter’s intelligent sister Beneatha (Diana Sands) is in college and hoping to enter medical school.  Currently she is obsessed with all things African. Walter’s mother Lena (Claudia McNiel) is clearly the head of the household.  She is a strong, God-fearing woman who doesn’t take much nonsense from anyone in her home.

Walter’s father died recently and the family is due to receive a $10,000 insurance payout. The  windfalll sends the family into a tailspin.  Walter wants it all to himself to buy the liquor store.  There is no way his Mama is going to invest in such a venture.  So Walter sulks and begins to drink heavily.  Mama has a plan for the money that is going to suit every other member of the family down to the ground.  Will the Youngers be allowed to fulfill her dream?  With Louis Gossett Jr. as Beneatha’s sometime rich and snobbish boyfriend.

This came from a stage play and feels it but the play is so strong I don’t mind.  The acting is uniformly wonderful.  The story is basically about Portier’s coming to manhood.  He is fantastic during every stage of his development from drunkard to head of the family.  McNeil is very powerful.  I love this movie.  Highly recommended.

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