Raisin in the Sun, A: Sidney Poitier Shines in Family Melodrama

Lorraine Hansberry adapted to the screen her 1959 Broadway play, about a black family in the process of change, which was a smash hit. Director Daniel Petrie has decided to cast in the film most of the original ensemble player.

Right on the heels of his success as a movie star, after garnering an Oscar nomination for Stanley Kramer’s “The Defiant Ones”(1958), Sidney Poitier gives a strong performance as the eldest son, who occupies the center of the family melodrama.

The Younger family strives to get out of their ghetto neighborhood on the south side of Chicago.  When the patriarch of the family passes away, each family member is handed a slice of the insurance payoff, and they all see an opportunity for change.

But there are personal and social obstacles along the way, and the movie is at its best in delineating the intergenerational conflict between the powerful matriarch Lena Younger (superbly played by Claudia McNeil) and her two children, Walter Lee (Sidney Poitier) and Beneatha Younger (Diana Sands)

The mother wants her son to assume the role of the head of the family, to be a real, responsible man by following in the footsteps of his father.  As she says in the message-driven closure: “He’s finally come into his manhood, like the rainbow after the rain.”

The movie betrays its theatrical origins: There are the requisite entrances and exits and the expected speeches and monologues.  But the entire ensemble its excellent, and considering the time in which it was made, the film is truly inspirational in the positive family values that it propagates.

 

Cast:

Walter Lee Younger (Sidney Poitier)

Lena Younger (Claudia McNeil)

Ruth Younger (Ruby Dee)

Beneatha Younger (Diana Sands)

Asagai (Ivan Dixon)

Mark Lindner (John Fiedler)

George Murchinson (Louis Gossett Jr.)

Travis (Stephen Perry)

Bobo (Joel Fuellen)

Willie Harris (Glenn Sr.)

 

Credits

 

Produced by David Susskind and Philip Rose

Directed by Daniel Petrie

Screenplay: Lorraine Hansberry based on her own play

Camera: Charles Lawton Jr.

Editor: William Lyon, Paul Weatherwax

Music: Laurence Rosenthal

Art direction: Carl Anderson

 

Black-and-white

Running time: 127 Minute