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Pinky (1949)

 -  Drama  -  November 1949 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 1,498 users  
Reviews: 37 user | 16 critic

A light-skinned African American woman falls in love with a white doctor, though he is unaware of her true race.


, (uncredited)


(novel), (screenplay), 3 more credits »
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Title: Pinky (1949)

Pinky (1949) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
William Lundigan ...
Basil Ruysdael ...
Kenny Washington ...
Griff Barnett ...
Frederick O'Neal ...
Evelyn Varden ...
Raymond Greenleaf ...


Pinky, a light skinned black woman, returns to her grandmother's house in the South after graduating from a Northern nursing school. Pinky tells her grandmother that she has been "passing" for white while at school in the North. In addition, Pinky has fallen in love with a young white doctor, Dr. Thomas Adams, who knows nothing about her black heritage. Pinky says that she will return to the North, but Granny Johnson convinces her to stay and treat an ailing white woman, Miss Em. Meanwhile, Dr. Canady, a black physician from another part of the state, visits Pinky and asks her to train some African American students, but she declines. Pinky nurses Miss Em but is resentful because she seems to feel that she is doing the same thing her grandmother did. Pinky and Miss Em slowly develop a mutual respect for one another. Mrs. Em leaves Pinky her property when she dies, but relatives of the deceased woman contest the new will in court. To raise money for the court fees, Pinky washes clothes... Written by Broncine G. Carter

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The poignant story of a girl who fell hopelessly in love! See more »




Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

November 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Pinky  »

Box Office


$4,200,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Linda Darnell showed interest in the lead role, but Darryl F. Zanuck noticed that her character resembled her character in Forever Amber (1947) too much. Fearing comparison, he rejected her for the lead. See more »


When actress Nina May Mckinney's character gets slapped on the left side of her face by the white officer, Nina mistakenly rubs the right side of her face. See more »


Judge Walker: Your honor, this is a small country town. We've always thought that what happened here was our own private concern. This is no longer true. Just as it is no longer true that our country as a whole can exist entirely to itself. What is done in our courts in cases such as this has become a matter of moment in the eyes of the world. Let us examine our conscience. Let us look into our attitude and our tradition. Let us take care lest it be said of us that here there is neither law nor justice.
See more »


Referenced in Black Shadows on the Silver Screen (1975) See more »

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User Reviews

Viewing a film 40 years later
18 October 2001 | by (st. monica) – See all my reviews

I saw this film some years after it came out, in a Texas Baptist orphans home, as a preadolescent. In the years to follow, I developed a fascination for Ethel Waters, esp. when I saw her interpretation of Carson McCuller's "A Member of the Wedding".

When I saw the film tonight on American Movie Classics, a lot of years had passed since first having seen it. Ethel Waters' performance struck me as cowed and subservient. In the court scene while being questioned by the plaintiff's council, she actually flinched when he raised his voice. ...And I'm thinking, 'Damn, that woman is really intimidated.' Having read her autobio, as well as a bio on her, I'm aware that not one woman in a million suffered through a similar childhood: a b*****d born of a 13-year-old rape victim - unwanted and shuffled from pillar to post to eventually become a's a wonder she survived.

Yet survive she did. Not surprisingly, she had a monster chip on her shoulder. It is my understanding that John Ford, the man who was to direct "Pinky", had such a run-in with Miss Waters that he quit, and Kazan took over. The word is that neither could stand the sight of the other.

The movie is an important one - and I'd like to think that the reason goes beyond the juxtapositioning of America's treatment of blacks in the Forties with today's suffocating PC standards. There is the understated acting, for one thing. Ethel Barrymore always played the dignified albiet intimidating elderly lady in her later years. Yet in "Pinky", she is strong without being absurdly powerful. How well that woman delivers her lines...!

What I also liked was, while the white majority were unkind to Pinky, I can attest as a Southerner (well, Texan), that Kazan presented them truthfully. He only demonized one woman: the older cousin-plaintiff.

It is surprising that this film wasn't presented in a more gritty format; that there wasn't more preaching in it, that it wasn't condescending to whites. None of these failings mar this splendid film. Forty years after having seen it, I realize a superb gentleness that isn't to be found in American films. At a guess, that's because a generation ago most films were made for 30-and-over adults, whereas today they're almost exclusively made for 13 - 25 year olds.

I will give "Pinky" my highest compliment: It is literary.

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Who Could Play Pinky Today? screenscreams
Nina Mae McKinney as Pinky hud9150
If Pinky was played by a black actress..... speilbrick-1
The boyfriend ran out much too quickly at the end... jwillis5
Miss Em's house blueeyedbear
Fox Movie Channel is going to air Pinky Hawkins0321
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