It’s not common to have public screenings of black films from the 70’s, but I think it’s important when it does happen, and one is coming up soon in November – at least for those living in the Chicagoland area. Besides, there’s a HUGE difference between seeing a film on your TV or computer or iPad or what have you, and seeing it on the big screen.
So on November 4 and 8 the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, as part of its Design for Living: Apartment Genre Films fall film series, will be screening the 1974 romantic comedy/drama Claudine , with Diahann Carroll and James Earl Jones.
If you love the film and haven’t seen it in years, or have never heard of it, you really ought to check out it. It’s a wonderful film, both gritty and charming at the same time, about a single working Harlem mother (Carroll) with a bunch of kids, and her romance with a happy-go-lucky, committment phobic garbage man (Jones). It is a film filled with highly comic and intensely dramatic moments, as you can see by the clip below.
There was drama behind the scenes as well too. Originally Diana Sands was slated to play the part, but got too ill and was forced to drop out. (She died shortly afterward) But she asked Carroll, who was a close friend of hers, to do the part in her place. Carroll eventually was chosen to replace Sands, after some hesitation by the director.
However, a lot of people loudly voiced their displeasure over the casting of Carroll. Believe it or not, they felt she was too “pretty”, too “bougie” and basically not “black” enough to play a Harlem single mother; evidently not even knowing that Carroll herself was born in New York and raised in Harlem.
She silenced all the naysayers when people saw her performance in the film, and she also got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her performance as well.
So if you’re around, check it out and see yet another example of a film they just don’t know how to make anymore.