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Long Before “The Help” There Was “The Long Walk Home”

Long Before "The Help" There Was "The Long Walk Home"

Since The Help is opening today, and Lords knows we have had more than our fair share of heated discussion about that damn movie, I thought it would be the perfect time to deal with another film which came out 20 years ago in 1991 that was thematically the same, but much different.

I’m referring to The Long Walk Home directed by Richard Pearce and starring Whoopi Goldberg and Sissy Spacek. It’s pretty much totally forgotten today, not surprisingly, since the film was mainly overlooked when it first came out. But I dare say, without even seeing The Help, it’s pretty clear that Home is lot tougher and more honest film. (Trivia note: Octavia Spencer’s first experience on a film set was working as a production assistant on Home).

The film is set in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, during the bus boycott, with Goldberg playing a housekeeper to Spacek’s family. In complete solidarity with the boycott, Goldberg refuses to ride the buses and makes the long grueling trek to work every day. Spacek, in growing sympathy and admiration with Goldberg for standing up for what she knows is right, soon offers to drive her to and from her house every day. However her actions eventually incurs the anger of Spacek’s racist husband who enlists the help of the White Citizens Council to put an end to the protest and split the developing bond between Goldberg and Spacek.

As you can tell from trailer, it’s a pretty intense film at times, and it may be too earnest for its own good; but it’s a finely acted film and one that also firmly makes a connection between the Civil Rights movement and the beginning of the women’s movement, as Spacek begins to find her spine and come out of her protective “good wife” shell. But the film has pretty much faded from memory. I couldn’t even find one decent still from the film, though it is available very cheaply on DVD from Amazon.

But it’s worth checking out especially if you’re planning to see The Help, to compare the two.

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I’ve been thinking about this movie lately. I thought they did a very good job with the subject matter. The Help is nothing new, it was done 20 years ago, and it was done a lot better the first time around (seemingly). You would think in 20 years it would improve, but The Help is needed if not just to remind us we’ve a long way to go yet.


Thanks 4 bringing this “film” into the fray,comparing the two, this films strident-narrative, hawks back to the more “ballsy” type filmmaking of the 70’s. u think?


Forgot about this movie. Need to see it again. I thought it was very good at the time but my opinion/tastes may have changed since then.


Saw it many years ago when films were made well and Hollywood was willing to at least take a chance with showing a splinter of true black and white racism. Good film.

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