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Canada Lee was set to star as Bigger Thomas (he had shot to fame in Orson Welles's Broadway production of Native Son), but he was stuck in limbo with South African customs agents during the filming of Cry, the Beloved Country (1951), not to mention his failing health eventually caused Lee to back out of the project. See more »
As an admirer of Wright's written work - especially "Native Son" - I had incredibly low expectations for several reasons: there was next to no budget, the cast and crew (including the starring role) were all amateurs, the director was not American and had never made an American film before this, the film had to be shot in Argentina, and "Native Son" is such a dense, complex, psychological piece of work to begin with.
But, if you look at this as a simple B-movie melodrama with a racial subtext that was badly missing from almost all of the films of its day, it isn't bad. In film, you don't get motivation, you get action, and the novel "Native Son" was all about hidden motivations and desires. Maybe it was a bad idea to even attempt to make Wright's novel into a film, but one must give him and the filmmakers credit for trying. In the era just before the McCarthy hearings and the blacklist, a feature film released to the public that was even half as potent as Wright's novel would have been commendable.
An idea actually occurred to me while watching this: someone should make a feature film about the making of "Native Son." From what I've read, the production faced many obstacles and setbacks, both physical and ideological, and I think the story behind this would be fascinating
especially the difficulty of an author playing his own creation while
trying to maintain his artistic integrity. Of course, Wright's life was fascinating in and of itself. Spike Lee, are you listening?
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