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With these words Miss Jane Pittman, speaking of an ancient, imposing
oak tree, sums up her own 110 years of life. And they also sum up this
magnificent, made for TV film.
I saw this film, only once, when it was first aired on CBS. In those times of the Vietnam antiwar protests and Civil Rights struggles, it made an indelible impression on a young college student... an impression that has remained, strong and bright now as it was then, over the 30 years since it's initial release.
When at long last the film became available on DVD, getting it was a no brainer. Even tho it's 30 years old now, the film has lost none of it's emotional impact.
This film and one other (I WILL FIGHT NO MORE FOREVER, outlining the battle by Chief Joseph to lead his people to freedom away from the reservation) were sponsored by the Xerox Corporation. Both projects were a spin off of the "Xerox Park" experiment; an attempt to spur technological progress in a cloistered hothouse environment of intellectuals, while at the same time fulfilling their perceived social responsibility to enhance American culture.
The Xerox Park experiment produced a number of worthwhile products; it advanced electronics and computer technology to lay the foundations that produced the first personal computers, it produced what I consider the best book outlining strategic thought in chess that's ever been written, and it's direct sponsorship produced these two films.
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN is is an historical tour de force that tells the story of Black people in America from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement and the space age in the 1970s, as seen through to eyes of a 110 year old woman who had lived through it all.
With simplicity and an immense dignity Jane Pittman speaks of the Reconstruction period in the deep South, with it's struggles for Black self determination and betterment, the constant terror of the Ku Klux Klan to thwart those efforts, and the legacy of racism that White America used as it fought those efforts at social advancement and equality, right up to the present day.
Cicely Tyson's performance as Miss Jane is MAGNIFICENT. The makeup that gradually changes her from a young woman in her 20s to a 110 year old woman is remarkable.
The ending is one of the most emotional and moving things ever produced for a TV movie... with simple, fearless dignity, Miss Jane Pittman makes her final, and most magnificent stand against the racism that she'd known all her life.
A film not to be missed. Ten stars.
Over thirty years have passed since I first watched 'Jane Pittman' on a small, black & white TV. There have been but a handful of viewing experiences that have stayed with me this strongly and vividly (and always will, I guess). Cicely Tyson's performance is strongly, clearly, heartfully drawn, ranking, in my opinion, in the very exclusive company of performances like Meryl Streep's Sophie in "Sophie's Choice". It's far easier for a mammoth mini-series to impart a permanent impression: this performance, and this artfully crafted story, did so in a scant two hours, introducing me to a character who became real and moving for me - - to this day.
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is a powerful story. Miss Jane's
story of the 110 years of her life is incredible. How anyone could
survive the horrors that she endured from slavery to freedom to
carpetbaggers to even seeing the Civil Rights movement is almost
unfathomable. The sad thing is that much never really changes for
blacks over the 110 years even though they are free. Discrimination,
lynching and the Ku Klux Klan are part of daily life.
Miss Jane never realizes her dream of reaching Ohio (the North). She loses everyone precious to her, her foster mother, Big Laura, her son, her husband, her godson. The only time she was really truly happy was during her brief marriage to Joe Pittman, a cowboy who's killed by an albino 'devil' horse. Yet, one wonders if her actions didn't cause Joe's death. She sharecrops and does what she needs to do to survive. Miss Jane remains a feisty admirable old woman to the end.
The scene at the water fountain where Miss Jane dares the rednecks to try and stop her from drinking from the 'White's Only' fountain is so powerful. The expressions on the actors' faces white and black are so real.
Cicely Tyson does an excellent job playing a 110 year old woman. In fact it's hard to believe that she is not an old woman. This film is far shorter than Roots and in my opinion should be required viewing for all American High School students.
As I saw the movie, I thought of the song "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" This woman lived through several wars, a husband killed by his own horse, to the civil right era. She was a paragon of strength and vitality, even when she approached 110 years of age. A vitality that some of us younger ones around 17 to 30 years old don't seem to have. Excellent cast. Wonderful makeup job on Cicely Tyson. Good script (although it strayed a bit from the book). I would highly recommend that whoever gets the movie, holds off on viewing it until reading the book, then they can appreciate the feel and the power Miss Tyson contributed to this role. Bravo, Miss Tyson. And Kudos to Ernest Gaines for his book and John Korty for his directorial prowess.
I saw this movie when it first aired back in 1974, at age 13. Having
up in an all white, Chicago suburb, all I knew about American's of African
descent came from my history classes in grade school, classes which taught
me that, many years ago, these peoples' forebears were slaves in America,
that Lincoln had set them free, and that now they are free and equal. So
always wondered why they constantly seemed to be protesting, rioting, and
committing crimes, as reported daily on the news? What do they have to so
angry about now?
This movie really opened my eyes for the first time and gave me a clue as to why these Americans were, and often still are, very angry. I never knew that any of the deplorable treatment of these Americans had gone on after slavery ended, and I was even more horrified to learn that this kind of treatment had continued into my lifetime, which began in 1961, and beyond.
Such treatment as white's having a water fountain from which to drink, while black's were only provided with a pipe sticking out of the ground, if even that; the forcing of black women to give up their seats on buses to white men; black's not being allowed in white diners, white hotels, etc.; all of this was going on in America during my short lifetime, and I never knew it.
The only thing that I ever cared about was that the Vietnam War would end before I was eighteen, so the protests against the war I could understand. Black protests for equal rights I couldn't understand, because as I stated, I thought they had equal rights.
Well, this movie made me understand for the first time reality of equality did not exist in America. Since first seeing this movie, I have always felt that this movie should be mandatory viewing in every grade school history class in America.
To be honest, I haven't seen this film for years but it is among the most moving I have ever seen. Most of all, it was a tour de force of acting by Cicely Tyson, giving the performance of a lifetime, in my view. This is the woman who had seen it all from civil war days to the beginning of the civil rights era. The grace, wisdom and integrity that comes through the character is phenomenal. The scene where Cicely Tyson describes the tree she loves would move even the most jaded cynic.... Though I am no historian by trade, it seems to me that this film takes us through some of the most important eras in the history of America, as seen through the eyes of the character Miss Jane Pittman. I remember I was only 20 when I saw it, but I have no doubt that this film will retain its vigor and relevancy for decades to come....
Cicely Tyson has always been talented, but when I saw this movie, I had a renewed respect for her talent. Filmed during the early 70s, she was made to look like a 110 year old woman and really made it believable. This is a story of a girl, born a slave than freed and her adult life in the south during reconstruction. The end of the movie left me feeling like I was right there with her in her rocking chair on the porch or sitting under the great old oak tree. If you have the slightest interest in the history of the struggle for freedom from slavery and segregation, watch this film. My hat goes off to Mrs. Tyson for bringing this story to life, thank you for giving this story heart :)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this movie for the first time when I was 9 years old. I wept.
I watched it again, every time I could find it airing anywhere. Twenty
years passed. Last night, it aired on PBS and I watched it again and
still, the same way it did back when I was 9, I could not stop my tears
flowing when I watched Cicely Tyson as "Miss Jane" walking to that
drinking fountain and drinking from it.
That scene is on my list of all time great movie moments... TV or big screen... it doesn't matter. This scene is classic and still as powerful for me today as it was back then.
If only we still had, as a rule, TV of this high caliber today... that both entertains and educates and changes your way of thinking. It ought to be a must-see movie for everyone. Simply... magnificent!
I saw this monumental film when it originally aired and I was all of nine/ten years old. I have NEVER forgotten this film, even though I have not seen it since. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN is such a phenomenal movie that I only had to see it ONCE to receive the full impact of what this tour de force was made for! I have not forgotten any of the moving scenes, the emotion, the fear, the hope, the determination, or the ability with which Ms. Cicely Tyson portrayed this woman. Being an impressionable little black girl, I was in awe of how that little girl, all by herself, took on the world and survived, without a momma or daddy. It goes to show that many of us are born with an inherent sense of raw courage, if only motivated by sheer guts. All I know is after seeing her strut her 110 year old body up to that water fountain and take a simple sip of water, that I was just as good as ANYBODY else in this world and NOBODY was going to make me think or feel differently. Cicely Tyson was put on this earth to play this role, to teach the children, to educate the masses and to demonstrate through the scuttle nuances of sheer acting ability, what DIGNITY really is!
AWESME! This film is a classic in the most deserved sense of the word. Cecily Tyson's acting is no less than Emmy-Award caliber, and she should have gotten TWO for this performance. The story flows like the Mississippi, slow and deliberate, and carries you willingly along, it is THAT Powerful. I never noticed when it first ran on TV that there had been only one commercial during it's telecast, but the story is so riveting and encompassing that there shouldn't have been ANY! Get the DVD as soon as you can; if you've never seen it, you'll be awed as well. If you have, you'll enjoy it all over again each time you view it! AWESOME !!!!!!!
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