Rural Mississippi in the 1940s: Lucas Beauchamp, a local black man with a reputation of not kowtowing to whites, is found standing over the body of a dead white man, holding a pistol that has recently been fired. Quickly arrested for murder and jailed, Beauchamp insists he's innocent and asks the town's most prominent lawyer, Gavin Stevens, to defend him, but Stevens refuses. When a local boy whom Beauchamp has helped in the past and who believes him to be innocent hears talk of a mob taking Beauchamp out of jail and lynching him, he pleads with Stevens to defend Beauchamp at trial and prove his innocence. Written by
An early example of a major motion picture company dealing with racial prejudice in a positive light.
Director Clarence Brown does a tremendous job in presenting Juano Hernandez as a dignified man living within a southern community steeped in Jim Crow. Hernandez is falsely accused of murder and is resigned to the fact that this prejudice will lead to his incarceration or worse.
The movie is full of surprises and, happily, ends on a positive note. One of the major movies on racial or cultural prejudice of the era, it was done after Gentlemen's Agreement (1947), Crossfire (1947), but precedes Sidney Poitier's No Way Out (1950) by a year. Clearly, the only other movie that touched on this issue beforehand was the first version of Imitation of Life (1934).
This era was a time when the motion picture industry was struggling with this issue and showed an earnest attempt at portraying this problem with dignity. Hernandez's role as Lucas Beauchamp was no ordinary role for a black actor during this time when the movie industry was still under the control of whites. All in all, this is one of the greats.
Great supporting acting from David Brian, Claude Jarman, Jr. and Elizabeth Patterson.
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