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Shadows (1959)

PG | | Drama, Romance | 14 October 1960 (UK)
3:10 | Clip

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



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



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Cast overview, first billed only:
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 <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

14 October 1960 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Sombras  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


This caused a stir as it fairly explicitly showed an unmarried couple in a post-coital position and its suggestion that a young woman would actively seek out sex. 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 »


Referenced in I Call First (2015) See more »


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

When Improversation Works
8 November 2000 | by See all my reviews

In 1959, came two films named Breathless and Shadows that would have an impact on World Cinema. The former would begin a new era in French Cinema called the French New Wave. The latter would change the face of Independant movie making. Breathless was made by a man who was in love with the cinema and possessed quite a bit of knowledge about films. Shadows was done by a man whose origins lies in the theatre. Shadows(1959) came about because of John Cassavettes inability to find work as an actor during the 1950's. His anger and frustration due to not finding work led to his first film as a director. Shadows is about a couple of light black skin people who try to pass themselves as white in order to find acceptence. The main actors play themselves in this groundbreaking feature. The best scene of the film is when Lelia brings her boyfriend who is white to her brother's apartment and reveals to him that's she and her family are black. It would have a tremendous effect on future directors like Martin Scorsese and the Coen Brothers. The film's urban grittiness and the theme of guilt seems to be a predecessor to Martin Scorsese's breakthough classic Mean Streets(1973). Shadows(1959) is the grandfather of Dogma95 as well as The Blair Witch Project(1999) and Timecode(2000).

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