Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Sony Hack Reveals the Insufferable Whiteness of Hollywood Sony Hack Reveals the Insufferable Whiteness of Hollywood '106 & PARK' Says Goodbye Today, Dec 19 at 6pm, w/ Live, 2-hour, Star-Studded Finale! '106 & PARK' Says Goodbye Today, Dec 19 at 6pm, w/ Live, 2-hour, Star-Studded Finale! First Image of Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in Upcoming HBO Biopic First Image of Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in Upcoming HBO Biopic The Gift That Keeps on Giving - Leaked Sony Email Challenges Denzel Washington's Overseas Box Office Appeal The Gift That Keeps on Giving - Leaked Sony Email Challenges Denzel Washington's Overseas Box Office Appeal Backlash Against New VH1 Series 'Sorority Sisters' Backlash Against New VH1 Series 'Sorority Sisters' Tessa Thompson Books Female Lead Role in Ryan Coogler's 'Creed' Opposite Michael B. Jordan Tessa Thompson Books Female Lead Role in Ryan Coogler's 'Creed' Opposite Michael B. Jordan Why Aren’t We Talking About the Sexual Assault in 'Beyond the Lights'? Why Aren’t We Talking About the Sexual Assault in 'Beyond the Lights'? Page to Screen Possibilities for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Americanah' (Lupita Nyong'o, David Oyelowo Starring) Page to Screen Possibilities for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Americanah' (Lupita Nyong'o, David Oyelowo Starring) David Oyelowo Joins Lupita Nyong’o in 'Americanah' Film Adaptation David Oyelowo Joins Lupita Nyong’o in 'Americanah' Film Adaptation Leaked Sony Emails Reveal Interest in Destiny's Child Biopic + Immersive Kanye West Feature Film Experience Leaked Sony Emails Reveal Interest in Destiny's Child Biopic + Immersive Kanye West Feature Film Experience Weekend B.O. Dec. 12-14 (So How’s That Boycott Working for Ya?) Weekend B.O. Dec. 12-14 (So How’s That Boycott Working for Ya?) What Sony Pictures Chief Amy Pascal Should Do if She Sincerely Wants to Make Amends What Sony Pictures Chief Amy Pascal Should Do if She Sincerely Wants to Make Amends Ava DuVernay Earns Her Way Into the History Books - First Black Woman Director to Be Nominated for a Golden Globe Award Ava DuVernay Earns Her Way Into the History Books - First Black Woman Director to Be Nominated for a Golden Globe Award Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means My MoviePass Experience - What Works & What Could Be Improved (The Movie Theater Subscription Service) My MoviePass Experience - What Works & What Could Be Improved (The Movie Theater Subscription Service) Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

Watch The Film Version Of Richard Wright’s ‘Native Son’ w/ The Author In The Lead Role (But Be Forewarned)

Shadow and Act By Sergio | Shadow and Act April 29, 2014 at 11:05PM

Take a look of the first feature film version of Richard Wright's classic novel "Native Son." But be careful, it's hardly a film that anyone would call a masterpiece... or just even good.
1
Native Son

I last wrote about this amazing film over a year ago, but now that it’s available to be seen on YouTube, I thought it’s time for another revisit. Not that it’s some undiscovered or overlooked classic. Just the opposite. It’s a genuine disaster, but a fascinating one.

Richard Wright's seminal novel Native Son, first published in 1940, is one of the most important books ever written about racism and the black experience in America. That can’t be argued. However, it has had the sad misfortunate of also being extremely unlucky at the movies.

There have been two film versions, and both of them were pretty lousy. There was the 1986 version made for PBS which did get a brief theatrical run, with Victor Love as the lead troubled character Bigger Thomas, and Oprah Winfrey, in one of her first film roles, as his downtrodden suffering mother ("My baby! My baby! Please suh my baby ain't meant no harm!"...or lines to that effect).

But the earlier 1951 film version, directed by French director Pierre Chanel, is the one that really needs to be seen to be believed.

Though the novel is set in Chicago, and obviously well aware that it would be impossible to shoot the film there (with the exception of some travelogue footage that opens the film), as well as to raise the money to make it, the film was completely shot in and around Buenos Aires, Argentina.

However that wouldn't have been a problem so much, if it wasn't for the fact that Wright himself played the lead role of Bigger Thomas. No doubt this was a problem for a couple of reasons. At the time Wright was in his early 40's (though he looked even older), literally more than twice the age of Thomas in his novel who is 20, and was too well fed and obviously well off to pay the role.

Even worse... well to put it simply, Wright is AWFUL as an actor.

He couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. As proof, take a look HERE at film clips of Wright's screen test which speaks for itself.

It's amazing that they thought he was convincing enough to play Thomas. But then the filmmakers probably thought having Wright, who was by then an internationally known, acclaimed writer and activist, play Thomas, would be a selling point.

But the film is simply bad. Sort of like a car wreck you can't bare to watch, but you can't turn your eyes away from. No doubt it's a sincere effort, but the clumsy, heavy-handed approach (granted it's a heavy-handed book), and Wright's amateurish performance, sink the whole endeavor like a stone.

The film had an unfortunate life after it was made. It was cut from its original 120 minutes length to just under 90 minutes, and, no doubt, the missing sequences are long gone and most likely destroyed or thrown away. Reportedly there was a 105 minute version at one time in existence, but no one has ever seen it to my knowledge. And it was, not surprisingly, barely released in the U.S. And since then the film has fallen into public domain and any idea of a restoration is very unlikely.

But despite all that, it's still very much worth watching just to see a rare example of forgotten black film history. Just don't expect a masterpiece. Scale down your expectations... way down..

This article is related to: Watch Now


Shadow & ActNewsletter