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Banned in the U.S.A.

Friday, November 6, 1992
Elia Kazan USA, 1949

The late forties saw a spate of films dealing with the "Negro problem." Elia Kazan's Pinky was one of the more notable entries, especially for its vanguard interracial romance. The story describes the return to the South of a light-skinned black nurse (Jeanne Crain) who had lived in Boston for twelve years, passing for white. Back with her endearing grandmother (Ethel Waters), Pinky is confronted by the squalid conditions of her home and, more significantly, by her black identity. Her stay exposes her to the double standards of a racist society, in harrowing scenes that never blanch in their indictment of racial inequality. But Kazan's film also has its compromises, most obviously in its choice of a white actress for the lead role. Pinky opened in the South to censorship skirmishes; Marshall, Texas found an exhibitor guilty of presenting a film that was "of such a character as to be prejudicial to the best interests of the people of said City." The case eventually led to a U.S. Supreme Court victory for the film.

• Written by Philip Dunne, Dudley Nichols, based on the novel Quality by Cid Ricketts Sumner. Photographed by Joe MacDonald. With Jeanne Crain, Ethel Waters, Ethel Barrymore, William Lundigan. (98 mins, B&W, 16mm, From Films Inc.)