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Black Like Me (1964)

 -  Drama  -  20 May 1964 (USA)
6.8
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 385 users  
Reviews: 15 user | 10 critic

Based on the true story of a white reporter who, at the height of the civil-rights movement, temporarily darkened his skin so that he could experience the realities of a black man's life in the segregated South.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
John Finley Horton
...
...
Christopher
...
Thomas Newcomb
...
Robert Gerringer ...
Ed Saunders
...
Eli Carr
John Marriott ...
Hodges
Thelma Oliver ...
Georgie
Lenka Peterson ...
Lucy Horton (as Lenka Petersen)
P. Jay Sidney ...
Frank Newcomb (as P.J. Sidney)
Billie Allen ...
Vertell
Alan Bergmann ...
Charles Maynard
Stanley Brock ...
Salesman
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Storyline

Black Like Me is the true account of John Griffin's experiences when he passed as a black man. John Horton takes treatments to darken his skin and leaves his home in Texas to travel throughout the South. At one stop, Horton encounters a black shoe shine man, Burt Wilson, who befriends him and shows him how to "act right" so that he can fit more easily into the African American culture. It is through Wilson that Horton learns the art of shining shoes. Most of his encounters with whites are quite degrading and disturb him. As a hitchhiker, John meets several white men who refer to black men and women in disparaging ways which angers John. Throughout the movie, John is harassed and persecuted by whites without reason. In one of his many stops throughout the South, John finds himself on a park bench sitting by a white woman. A white man walks by and says, "You'd better find another place to sit." Even though he had a college degree, menial jobs were all that he could find. John meets ... Written by Broncine G. Carter

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

"I changed the color of my skin... now I know what it feels like to be BLACK!"

Genres:

Drama

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Release Date:

20 May 1964 (USA)  »

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1.78 : 1
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Connections

Referenced in Hearts Afire: Fat Like Me (1994) See more »

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User Reviews

Excellent book, deeply flawed movie
14 October 2000 | by See all my reviews

This movie mostly follows the book closely, but Whitmore's performance gives it an altogether different tone. Instead of portraying Griffin's experience realistically, he's just angry throughout the film. As Griffin himself noted, that kind of behavior would never have been tolerated by the Southerners. Yet Whitmore blusters along, talking back and actually threatening at times. I found that this really detracted from the message of the book, and the film fails to convey the despondence that overcame Griffin after the full realization of his experiment. Whitmore also makes Griffin look naive, uneducated, and speaks in a grating northern accent. In conclusion, the film is okay, and relatively true to the book, if you ignore Whitmore's out-of-place angry delivery.


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