This story is a true account of the lives of Scott and Marsha Carter. Having graduated from medical school, Scott Carter, a fair-skinned African American, marries Marsha Mitchell and moves ...
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This story is a true account of the lives of Scott and Marsha Carter. Having graduated from medical school, Scott Carter, a fair-skinned African American, marries Marsha Mitchell and moves to Georgia. When he arrives at the black clinic in Georgia, he discovers that the job must inconveniently go to a Southerner. Discussions between two nurses at this clinic suggest that Scott's light skin may have some bearing on the decision not to hire him. Defeated but not conquered, Scott returns to Massachusetts to live with his in-laws until he can get employment. He tries unsuccessfully to obtain employment as an African American. Because Marsha is pregnant, Scott decides to take a job at Portsmouth Hospital, but he reluctantly does so as a white man. While there, he manages to save the life of Dr. Bracket, who encourages him to take a postion in Keenham, New Hampshire. Scott decides to continue "passing" for white. In Keenham, Dr. Scott Carter proves to be quite a success for the town. For ... Written by
Broncine G. Carter
My first reaction to this movie was that it came across as very dated, indeed - both in terms of the plot and the social issue involved, and just in the fact that it looked like an old movie. Some movies from that era hold up well and continue to feel fresh. This one didn't have that feel. Still, when you think about it in the context of the era in which it was made, it seems to have been a courageous enough movie, and those involved with it must have thought that it had an importance to it, because I doubt that anyone connected with it went into it thinking it would be a box office hit! In fact, it was banned in several cities
especially in the south, including Atlanta.
The story (based on the actual life of Dr. Albert Johnson) revolves around the Clark family. Mason Clark is a doctor, and Marcia is his wife. They have a seemingly normal existence. They move to a small town in New Hampshire, where he becomes the town doctor and eventually becomes quite respected and even loved. They raise two kids and everything is outwardly blissful. But the Clarks have a secret. They're "passing." Mason and Marcia both have "Negro blood" - which means they're black as far as society is concerned, but they hide that from everyone including their kids. When World War II breaks out and Mason tries to join the Navy a little investigation reveals their secret, and the once beloved town doctor is beloved no longer, and his kids are devastated - understandably since their entire life, their entire existence and their entire identity has been turned upside down.
One of the more controversial things about this movie was the casting of Mel Ferrer and Beatrice Pearson as the Clarks - both very much white actors playing blacks. Without black face, of course - because the Clarks are supposed to have been light-skinned enough to "pass" - but some are bothered by that. I think that's a 21st century reaction, mind you, that probably didn't cause much fuss in 1949. This was the first credited role for Ferrer, who had a long career and in later years became more known for guest roles in TV series and made for TV movies, and Pearson didn't really do very much after this either. I thought their performances were all right, but neither, in my opinion, were outstanding.
I'd think of this more as a historical curiosity than a truly good movie - one that gives a wee bit of a look into the plight of blacks in that era and some insight into why many of those who were able to would simply choose to hide their race and live "white" lives. (6/10)
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