12 March 2013

Patch of Blue

A Patch of Blue (1965)
  • Director: Guy Green
  • Based on Book:
  • Cast: Sidney Poitier, Shelley Winters, Elizabeth Hartman, Wallace Ford
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • No such reactions here, I recognized everybody but from this movie which is where I saw them all for the first time, probably.
  • Why bought: remembered as among the best movies seen as young
  • Seen: twice. The first time when it came out in the 60’s and August 24, 2012

This movie has a lot to live up to. The first time I saw it I was an impressionable teenager in the process of building up anger over racism, war and inequality.  This movie was instrumental in that development.  I don’t know how well known the film is now so here’s a short resumé: a blind working class poor white girl strings beads into necklaces to eke out a few pennies. Her drunken mother with less than acceptably virtuous sexual habits mistreats her, the drunken grandfather somewhat less so.  On rare occasions she’s allowed to go to the park and string her beads there. On one such occasion she encounters a gentlemanly cultivated young man who reluctantly gets involved in her life. He tells her she doesn’t have to live this life, there are schools for blind people. She falls in love with him.  What she doesn’t know, except that she does really, is that he is black.   He and the viewer see the threats, the impossibility, in a racist society. She does not.
                I looked for the DVD for a long time and was almost reluctant to watch it when I did get it. Would it hold up?
                It did.  It’s still painful to watch, dramatic and gripping. The acting of the entire cast still rings true. Shelley Winters won an Oscar as the horrible mother. Sidney Poitier and Elizabeth Hartman (in her first movie) should have too.
                The film glides close to some stereotypes – drunken white working class racists, squeaky clean black bourgeois class filled with suppressed rage, strong man liberating imprisoned damsel- but of course stereotypes evolve from reality and in the film they ring true.
                How much the American society has changed in its attitude toward ethnically mixed marriages/relationships I don’t know, not having lived there for almost forty years. I’m assuming (hoping) that the subject of the film is dated and very 60’s-ish.  Nevertheless it’s still powerful, still important. Still one of my favorites.  5 * of 5.


  1. Haunting movie indeed! Simple but poignant story, wonderfully played by everybody and, somewhat strangely, rather enhanced by the black-and-white cinematography. For some reason, I was less impressed with the anti-racist message (certainly much less so in comparison with Poitier's great 1967 trilogy) than with the purely human aspect. Somehow it seems to me that she might as well have been black or he white and yet their problems would hardly have been smaller. Which makes the story rather timeless.

    Perceptive observation about stereotypes. I quite agree and have always had the same feeling about cliches, another neglected form of pop culture. (Query: is a stereotype a type of cliche, or is it the other way round? Or are they synonyms?) Anyway, both are usually so devastatingly true that we seldom stop to think what they actually mean. Well, they often mean a great deal and have very serious consequences. So they are worthy raw material of any art.

    Obligatory movie for all fans of Sidney Poitier as well as for everybody fond of pictures which, even if they become dated, never really grow old.

  2. Your astute and complex comment is much appreciated. Thank you!