The central conflict in this film is whether African-American businessman Ernie Jones (played by O'Neal) raped Swedish immigrant and civil rights Freedom Rider Greta Mae Hansen (played by ... See full summary »
The central conflict in this film is whether African-American businessman Ernie Jones (played by O'Neal) raped Swedish immigrant and civil rights Freedom Rider Greta Mae Hansen (played by Lund). Jones was the proprietor of the hotel at which Hansen decided to stay during her time in Dallas. The movie is primarily a court room drama, with many of the key events portrayed in flashback sequences as Ernie Jones and Greta Mae Hansen testify. Written by
The recently deceased Texas filmmaker Larry Buchanan is generally remembered today because of the awful science fiction quickies he remade at the behest of AIP during the late 1960s. That's unfortunate, as Buchanan was also a director with a probing interest in the pressing issues of the day, particularly the sensitive question of race relations. Free, White and 21 served as a dry run for his 1964 courtroom 'docudrama', The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, and whilst the latter film suffered from an understandable over ambition, the former remains a fascinating glimpse at the changes taking place throughout the American South of the early 1960s.
Swedish-born Annalena Lund plays Greta, a blonde Scandinavian beauty who has come to Dallas to raise funds for CORE (The Congress of Racial Equality) after freedom riding her way through Mississippi. She finds herself in the black part of town, staying at the Ebony Hotel and soliciting funds from businessman Ernie Jones (stage actor and union activist Frederick O'Neal). What happened when the two met in her hotel room is the focus of film's lengthy courtroom sequences: did Greta consent to intimacy? Did Jones give her a little too much alcohol in her rum and coke? And was the whole thing a set up to see if a black man could get a fair trial in a Texas courtroom? The film provides an answer of sorts, but the prosecuting attorney has the final word: "Is it that we love Negroes more...or that we love intruders even less?"
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