In celebration of Black History Month, we’re making daily movie recommendations, presented in chronological order of the films’ stories.
Stay tuned to Noovie every day as we highlight an original, landmark film worth revisiting or discovering for the first time.
February 7 – A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
The landmark 1961 drama “A Raisin in the Sun” is a direct film adaptation of the Broadway play by Lorraine Hansberry, which debuted on stage two years earlier. It tells the story of a working-class African-American family who all live in the same Chicago apartment. Coming into a $10k inheritance after the patriarch dies, the family members find themselves at odds on how to use the funds to better their lives.
The stage play earned much critical acclaim, including four Tony Award nominations. The film adaptation carried much of that production over to the cinema, with Hansberry’s script honing very close to its theater roots, and seven of the play’s cast members returning to their roles.
The film centers on the Younger family, who receive the $10k windfall after matriarch Lena’s (Claudia McNeil) husband dies. While her eldest son Walter Lee hopes to use the money to invest in the opening of his friends’ liquor store, Lena wishes to take the funds and make a down payment on a house where the family can all live. Walter’s younger sister Beneatha (Diana Sands) has different ideas, too, wanting to pay off her medical school bills with the cash. Also caught in the predicament are Walter’s wife Ruth (Ruby Dee) and their young son Travis (Stephen Perry).
The story, while confined to a limited setting [mostly the family’s small apartment] and not straining too hard to extend past its stage-bound history, does an incredible job of conveying the everyday trials of a black family struggling to overcome the financial burdens and societal conditions of the day. It also points out the differences between generations of African-Americans, and their top priorities. Walter yearns to get ahead in business as the way for his family to move forward. Lena on the other hand wants to create a real foundation and home for them to be together.
Events conspire in the story to create a flashpoint where Walter must make a final decision that will steer the course of his family’s future. Ultimately, he’s able to find a balance between all the perspectives, which is rendered beautifully in the film.
Besides the rising star of Sidney Poitier, “A Raisin in the Son” featured the film debut of future Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr. The movie won Ruby Dee the National Board of Review award for Best Supporting Actress. Poitier and McNeil were nominated for Golden Globes. And the film was chosen in 2005 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Where to Watch
A Raisin in the Sun
Drama / 1961
This lauded drama follows the Youngers, an African-American family living together in an apartment in Chicago. Following the death of their patriarch, they try to determine what to do with the substantial insurance payment they'll soon receive. Opinions on what to do with the money vary. Walter Lee (Sidney Poitier) wants to make a business investment, while his mother, Lena (Claudia McNeil), is intent on buying a house for them all to live in -- two differing views of the American Dream.