An African-American man (Sidney Poitier, Guess Who’s Coming to Diner) develops a friendship with a blind white girl (Elizabeth Hartman, The Beguiled) he meets at a park. She doesn’t realize that he is black, and when her racist mother (Shelley Winters, The Diary of Ann Frank) finds out about the friendship, chaos ensures.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“I can remember blue. The sky’s blue, ain’t it?”
I have always been fond of A Patch of Blue, but I must admit I was a little weary about revisiting this old favorite of mine. As you get older, your taste in movies change, and I was afraid that the film’s fundamentally simple structure wouldn’t appeal to me anymore. I need not have worried: A Patch of Blue has stood the test of time.
The film was directed by British filmmaker Guy Green (A Walk in the Spring Rain). The director also did the screenplay, based upon the 1961 novel Be Ready With Bells and Drums by Aussie writer Elizabeth Kata (aka Elizabeth Colina Katayama). A Patch of Blue is an enjoyable film, full of heart-wrenching and sincere moments.
The movie’s central idea is the problem of racial barriers within American society, but don’t cringe, this is not one of those inspirational melodramas that creates situations in a manipulative and abrasive manner. Far from becoming preachy, A Patch of Blue makes its case in a surprisingly intelligent and disarmingly natural way.
Truth be told, some key plot elements don’t carry as much weight as they used to. Today this is a “problem movie” with no problem. The once controversial A Patch of Blue has lost its power to shock the audience, and that’s a good thing. The idea of an educated black man mentoring an uneducated white girl is no longer daring.
However, when seen in the context of the 1960s civil rights movement, A Patch of Blue is groundbreaking in its handling of an interracial romance. And that’s the great thing about watching older films — you can literally see how society has evolved over the years. In addition, the movie also may be seen as a poignant coming-of-age story.
Sidney Poitier and newcomer Elizabeth Hartman are excellent. Shelley Winters (she won the Oscar) is very good too. The cast also includes Wallace Ford (Blood on the Sun) as Ole Pa, Ivan Dixon (Porgy and Bess) as Mark Ralfe and Elisabeth Fraser (Two for the Seesaw) as Sadie. Nice music score by Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen). Shot in beautiful black and white by Robert Burks (Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo).
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
A Patch of Blue is essentially a well-told story about people trying to overcome the limitations of their environment. Racism is an important element of the story, but the movie is more than that – it is, among other things, a story about courage, empathy, love, and self-discovery. Good reviews and positive word of mouth also helped this film become one of the biggest hit of 1965. B&W, 105 minutes, Not Rated.