Zora Neale Hurston’s “The Gilded Six Bits” is a short story that was published in 1933, when she was a relative newcomer on the literary scene. The story goes that a well-known publisher named Bertram Lippincott read the "The Gilded Six Bits" and was so impressed by it that it led to Hurston getting a book deal, and her first novel, "Jonah’s Gourd Vine."
Of course it was the publication of her second novel, "Their Eyes Were Watching God," in 1937, that brought her great success and a lasting legacy. Though it was pivotal to her career, “The Gilded Six Bits” was not reprinted until renewed scholarly interest in Hurston led to the publication of a compilation of her short stories, entitled "Spunk," in 1985. It is now considered one of Hurston’s best stories.
"The Gilded Six Bits” follows the happy lives of two young newly weds whose relationship is tested when a rich, slick outsider comes into their community and into their home, and they experience firsthand that age-old adage, "all that glitters is not gold." It’s a playfully-told story of love, betrayal, and forgiveness set in Hurston’s hometown, Eatonville, FL, and reflects the traditions of the community.
What may not be widely-known is that, in 2001, Booker T. Mattison directed a short film based on "The Gilded Six Bits," which starred 2 actors from "The Wire" – Chad Coleman and Wendell Pierce – as well as T’Keyah Crystal Keymah (who is likely most known from her years on "In Living Color") and Novella Nelson (a veteran character actress who’s appeared in numerous TV series and films, from "The Starter Wife" to "Antwone Fisher").
Coleman and Keymah play the couple, Joe and Missie May; Pierce is the outsider-hustler Otis D. Slemmons; and Nelson plays Mama Banks, Joe’s mother.
Mattison both adapted the short story to screenplay and directed the short film which would go on to air on the Showtime network in 2001 after some film festival exposure.
Also, Cybel Martin, who’s written several wonderful pieces for this blog over the years, was the DP on the film.
I thought we’d shared the film on this blog previously, but I went digging through the S&A archives and discovered that we actually have not. I was reminded of it this morning when researching something else entirely – a path that eventually led me to Hurston and her short story. Thankfully the short film is still online – all 29 minutes of it. So how could I not share it…