Shadows (1959)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  18 March 1961 (Denmark)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 6,673 users  
Reviews: 36 user | 61 critic

Cassavetes' jazz-scored improvisational film explores interracial friendships and relationships in Beat-Era (1950s) New York City.



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Nominated for 3 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ben Carruthers ...
Lelia Goldoni ...
Hugh Hurd ...
Anthony Ray ...
Dennis Sallas ...
Tom (as Tom Allen)
David Pokitillow ...
Rupert Crosse ...
David Jones ...
Davey (as Davey Jones)
Pir Marini ...
Pir the Piano Player
Victoria Vargas ...
Jack Ackerman ...
Jack, Director of Dance Studio
Jacqueline Walcott ...
Cliff Carnell
Jay Crecco


Benny's a hipster, moving in and out of Manhattan's beat scene, aimless, maybe close to trouble. His sister Lelia, who looks less African-American than White, is vulnerable and about to fall in love. Hugh, their older brother, is a struggling singer whose agent, Rupert, may be the only person with faith in his talent. The story moves back and forth, like jazz, among the three of them and what seems at first to be separate lives. Lelia meets Tony, and lets herself hope this is true love. Then he meets Hugh and prejudice gives Tony an excuse to cut and run. Can family and friendship bring solace for her hurt, purpose for Benny, and belief in Hugh? Is life more than shadows? Written by <>

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PG | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

18 March 1961 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

Sombras  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Made for only $40,000. See more »


Girl at Party: The trouble with you is, you have a case of self-induced hysteria every time you hear the word 'existentialism'.
See more »

Crazy Credits

"Presented by Jean Shepherd's Night People" See more »


References Edge of Darkness (1943) See more »


Written by Jack Ackerman, Hunt Stevens and Eleanor Winters
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User Reviews

Experimental Excellence
22 February 2003 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

John Cassavettes decided as his first film, obviously as one that could be shot on a shoestring in New York and experiment with form and time, to not ave a script with dialog (merely an outline). And he delivered a 1959 feature equivalent of (present day) Curb Your Enthusiasm- all the actors know what to do and say and even have the right look in their eyes when they talk. In other words, it's one of the most naturalistic looks at a time and place, the "beat" generation, jazzed sweetly in it's score and telling a tale of racial tensions. A group of black siblings are the center-point, with one trying to get better gigs than the average strip-club, and has a sister, much more light-skinned than him, who gets entwined with a white man in a relationship, which shatters both sides. The film, however, isn't exclusively about that; Cassavettes likes to have his characters wander around New York City (which not many films did in 1959/1960), taking in mood, attitude and something akin to visual poetry, and his style of storytelling is like that of the improvisational jazz artists of the day. Dated, to be sure, but worth a serious look for film buffs. Martin Scorsese named this as one of his heaviest influences, if nothing else.

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