The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: December 3

12/03/2014 4:00 AM |

 

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Cry, the Beloved Country (1951)
Directed by Zoltan Korda
South Africa’s Nationalist Party came to power and formally instituted its apartheid policies in 1948. Racial segregation had been widespread throughout the country well beforehand, though, as described in South African author Alan Paton’s acclaimed, exposé-minded debut novel Cry, the Beloved Country, which was published four months prior to the 1948 elections. Cry’s story—both in book and film form—focuses on the character of Reverend Stephen Kumalo (played by Canada Lee), an aging black countryside minister who reacts with shock as he discovers the disgrace into which his Johannesburg family members have been plunged. Paton took official credit for adapting his book to the screen, but did so on behalf of the movie’s true screenwriter: the socially progressive John Howard Lawson, who had once headed the Hollywood branch of the American Communist Party. At the time of production, Lawson was on the Hollywood blacklist for refusing to answer questions before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). His faithful, moving adaptation of Paton’s plea for social equality was his penultimate screenplay to be produced. Aaron Cutler (Dec 4, 8, 9pm; Dec 14, 4:45pm at Anthology Film Archives’s “Screenwriters and the Blacklist”)