The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (TV Movie 1974) Poster

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"It's the NOBILITY that you respect..."
Gavno9 July 2005
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.
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A tale of incredible Endurance and Resilience.
Chemi Che-Mponda19 September 2005
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.
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Jay DeVaughn11 September 2004
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.
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craig_stark27 September 2004
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.
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superb acting from Cicely Tyson makes this movie unforgettable
mofjord6 October 2005
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....
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What a great lesson......
lenzo4nm16 September 2005
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 :)
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Powerful, moving and still relevant
mayzeedoodle22 January 2006
Warning: 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!
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An Outstanding and Moving History Lesson!
JHW37 October 1999
I saw this movie when it first aired back in 1974, at age 13. Having grown 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 I 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.
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One time was enough!
BERGDORF21 November 2006
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!
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AWESOME! Just simply A W E S O M E !!!!!!!!!
elskootero17 September 2005
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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It just doesn't get much better than this
MartinHafer1 August 2007
This was a made for TV movie based on the Jane Pittman novels. Despite playing as if Miss Jane was a real person who lived to be 110, I can assure you that it is indeed fiction. However, like Forrest Gump, Miss Jane was a fictional character who was woven into the real American events that defined the Black-American experience for the first hundred years after emancipation. Unlike Gump, this movie has much more significance and poignancy--making it an exceptional film to illustrate history and social change to subsequent generations.

The film begins with a White reporter coming to see Miss Jane and learn about her long and interesting life. This is set against the backdrop of the coming of the Freedom Marchers into the rural South--as several around Miss Jane have been jailed or worse for demanding equality. Miss Jane's recollections begin shortly before the end of the Civil War and demonstrate how this struggle and yearning for rights is not new, but part of a long and gut-wrenching process that has taken her entire life.

The film deserves great praise on so many levels. The novels and script are simply superb writing. Cicely Tyson did an incredibly job playing both a younger Miss Jane and a hundred year-plus character as well. To make all this possible, makeup and prosthetics were used that even today would be admirable. And the direction, music, supporting acting all come together to make a beautiful and very touching film.

About the only negatives I can think of are that the film was too short and I would have preferred to see it as a mini-series--it was THAT good! Also, the problems and race relations talked about in the film are rather superficial due to these time constraints. Many characters aren't well hashed out because there is only so much you can say in 150 minutes about a time period spanning 100 years. Despite these minor problems, see this film--it's a must for anyone wanting to see great film making as well as learn how far we have traveled. Plus, it does pack a mighty powerful punch.
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Excellent Acting, Believable Characters and a Compelling Story Make This A Triumph
Michael McGonigle13 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is a made for television movie first broadcast on Thursday, January 31, 1974. In the thirty plus years since its showing (it was released theatrically in other countries), Jane Pittman has lost none of its power.

Following the life of former slave, through the reconstruction of the South and up to the civil rights struggle of the sixties, it is almost inconceivable that one person could have lived through it all, yet making that story believable is the particular triumph of this film.

A lot can happen in any hundred and ten years, but the transformations the United States went through from 1852 to 1962 were enough for several countries. This film is truly an epic in its characterizations and themes, even though it is small in scale. There is more to being an epic than having sets the size of Babylon and thousands of extras.

The film was based on the novel by Ernest J. Gaines, who wrote it from the recollections of various people he knew while growing up in rural Louisiana. Adapted with care by Tracey Keenan Wynn, the story is told in flashback by having Miss Jane Pittman speak with an interviewer played by Michael Murphy (an underrated actor, everywhere you look he's been in strong films and worked with the most talented of directors; a partial list of his film credits reads like a best films of all time list: M*A*S*H, Manhattan, An Unmarried Woman, Nashville etc.) We first meet Miss Jane Pittman on her 110th birthday and she seems a feisty old coot. Later as she recounts her life, we feel the dignity and reserve of strength inside this woman. Unlike the relentlessly "upbeat" TV movies of today or the trashy "tabloid" movies, which make the juvenile mistake of confusing lurid sensationalism with drama, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman contains some scenes of terrifying violence and real emotional pain, things that would not be portrayed honestly on TV today.

The most compelling force in Jane Pittman is the studied and completely controlled performance of Cicely Tyson in the title role. Born in Harlem in 1932 of recently emigrated Caribbean parents, she spent much of her youth on welfare often earning extra money selling shopping bags on the street.

After graduating from high school, she was a typist and then took up modeling where her dark complexion and lean, yet rounded looks served her well. She got her first acting experience in an amateur Harlem YMCA stage production and went from there to work in television, with a featured role in the TV series East Side, West Side, opposite George C. Scott. She worked in films sporadically receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for the 1972 film Sounder.

There was always something remote about Cicely Tyson. She never seemed to care much about the publicity aspects of being an actress and she often appeared irascible. She never tries to make any of her characters seem likable and prefers the acting challenge of making characters dignity all-important.

In Jane Pittman, she doesn't rely on her beautiful smile and shapely form; she's not interested in selling the actress, only the character, spending most of the film encased in make-up (created by Stan Winston and Rick Baker) that convincingly ages her. Her narration is in an old raspy voice that reeks of irony. It is an amazing feat of acting skill. Try it yourself right now. Imagine your 110 years old, what do you sound like, how do you move? You can see why she was roundly praised for her work in this film.

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman was filmed on location in Louisiana and directed by John Korty, a man primarily known for his work writing, photographing and directing his own low budget films like Crazy Quilt and Funnyman. He seems an odd choice for this kind of film, but his skill with actors and simple style proved effective.

Jane Pittman sometimes suffers from its low budget. Almost all of the night exteriors were shot "day for night" in which the film is shot in broad daylight and then by underexposing the film and equipping the lens with special filters an acceptable "night" look is achieved.

There is no aesthetic reason to shoot "day for night", it is almost always done for budgetary reasons; you don't have to pay a film crew the differential night shooting requires by union regulations, nor do you have to rent extra lighting equipment. I personally loathe "day for night" photography, the shadows are all wrong and the bluish tint everything is bathed in is disconcerting.

That is just a minor quibble in a film full of life and personality. It is a pleasure to watch Jane Pittman grow, even at her advanced age. She had always been a person more likely to go along with the status quo, that's the main reason she lived so long and it was a joy to watch her take her first steps as a political activist. When she is driven into town and she proudly totters up to the "whites only" water fountain and takes a cool drink amid the disapproving eyes of the police I was almost cheering. It is a powerful moment.

Finally, I am annoyed that the phrase "TV Movie" is frequently used in a derisive manner and to the less knowledgeable, it means a lack of quality like the phrase "Made in Japan" used to mean. However, all being a "TV Movie" means is that the film is presented to the public on television screens bypassing theatrical venues; it is not an indication of quality. Remember, it's not the size of the screen, it's what the artist puts on it that defines a film.
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One of the best TV movies ever made
Thomas30 October 2006
I was only 9 years old when I saw 'The autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman' on television in 1974, and I am still as impressed with this film as I was back then. While "Miss Jane" is a fictitious person, the historical context and experiences of this character are quite real.

This outstanding film was made prior to 'Roots', so it gave audiences a glimpse into a chapter of history rarely seen before. In my view, Cicely Tyson is one of the best and most underrated actresses in American entertainment history.

An old 110 year old former slave (outstanding performance by Cicely Tyson) tells a writer about her experiences as a slave, and throughout the late 19th and early 20th century. Thalmus Rasulala plays her "son", Ned. Viewers will notice that Ms. Tyson and Mr. Rasulala also portrayed Kunta Kinte's parents several years later in the miniseries, 'Roots'. Don't blink, or you will miss Katherine Helmond (of television's "Soap" and "Who's the boss?") in a rare dramatic role as a bitter Confederate widow.

'The autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman' clearly expresses the progress in race relations accomplished since the days of antebellum America. It is an absolute tragedy that so many young Americans today squander the opportunities prior generations could not even dream about. Such people need to sit down and listen to Miss Jane, in this fabulous television movie.
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A Gem
dondino14 March 2006
This was an incredible film. Kudos to all involved. Incredible performances and the story is very touching.

Particularly powerful to me as I am a white male, 35 years old, adopted by African Americans when just month's old, who were my babysitters when my real parent's decided to skip out on me. They were already of age at the time and my mom is still kicking at 80. She has had plenty of stories to share with me from her own experiences as well as her parents and family. The details from family events and stories with those portrayed in the film show incredible similarity.

See this film, you will not regret it.
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Good Film
sandra83619 September 2001
This film is very rare to find. I saw it with a friend at her house. The picture looks very old, looks like it was made a thousand years ago, but I just found out it was made in 1974. This is a very good film. It tells the tale about an ex-slave woman named Jane Pittman who is 110 years old; at the time it was 1962 Louisiana, so she must have been born around the 1850s. She is as black as night and coal, and her skin is mighty wrinkled. It's hard to believe they put make up on her, I assumed the woman who played her would be long dead by now, but she isn't. The woman playing her is Cicely Tyson, (who was about 30-something at the time) who also played "Harriet Tubman" four years later. She tells a New York reporter about her life as a slave and when she turned eleven in 1865, all the slaves were set free. Whoever played young Jane did an excellent job as the bold, sad looking waif girl. Jane Pittman narrates this story sitting down in a chair. It has flashbacks, such as if she'd be telling one incident in her life that happened long ago and then they'd go back to that incident, then the screen would black and and go back to her sitting on the chair with her black, coal self. Good script, acting, everyone did well, underrated, it should show on TV and have people know of this movie, but oh well.
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Perfect Television!!!!
res07lla21 January 2003
This movie was perfect! I cannot think of one bad thing to say about it! Ms. Tyson is brilliant and without doubt deserved the Emmy Award she received. The cast is perfect, the script is perfect, the score is perfect. I saw it when it first came out and watched it again recently. Touching!
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Cicely Tyson: It Does Not Get Much Better Than This!
Scott Amundsen13 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Oh, what a wonderful world this would be if all television productions were of such high quality as this one.

Cicely Tyson, proving that she is one of the greatest actresses of her generation, plays Miss Jane Pittman, 110 years of age, born during slavery and recounting her life to a sympathetic and interested white reporter during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement.

Buried under several layers of totally convincing aging makeup, Tyson never makes a false move as Old Jane; she is so convincing that when she appears without the makeup, it makes for some of the most convincing flashback scenes ever filmed. Tyson was in fact forty when she played this role, so in actuality she steps into the part playing younger than her actual age, then moves seamlessly and fluidly into middle age, old age, and extreme old age, all the while maintaining an astonishing amount of both humanity and dignity.

Naturally, in such a long life, and given the circumstances of that life, Pittman experiences more than her share of tragedy. Her perseverance is an inspiration. And the famous final scene where the 110-year-old Pittman makes her way to the "Whites Only" drinking fountain in an act of defiance after a young activist is murdered is something that will stab you to the heart.

I have noticed a few remarks from viewers in the UK claiming that the mise-en-scène is too overly simplistic: that the Black characters are too heroic and that the White characters too obviously racist. With all due respect to them, I must point out that racism in the UK, as E R Braithwaite delineated in his book TO SIR, WITH LOVE, played out very differently than in the United States. In the UK it was quite common for people to claim that racism did not exist in the British Isles despite plenty of subtle reminders that any Black Breton experienced daily. Racism in the States, particularly in the South in the Fifties and Sixties, was VERY in-your-face, much more so than in Europe. So viewers in the UK must keep in mind that this is a story of prejudice in the United States. Racism is not unique to our country, but neither does it manifest itself in the same way everywhere.

At any rate, whether as a great lesson in history, an example of the heights that television is capable of, or simply to watch an amazing actress ply her craft, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN is not to be missed.
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Landmark American television Film.
frncsbrennan9 September 2010
A landmark in American television film; perhaps a landmark in American film, period. Cicely Tyson heartily deserved both Emmys she won for this role, and deserved some more awards as well. This is the story of a hundred and ten year old woman, who was a former slave, and who recounts her life to a young white journalist in the year 1962. This film authentically recounts U.S. history from the the end of the Civil War, Reconstruction, the turn of the century, and up to the Civil Rights period of the 1960s. Miss Pittman's walk to the fountain is a great scene, and welled up some tears in my eyes. Fascinating throughout,a must see for all.
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Still a must-watch
btm130 March 2010
If you have never seen this film add it to your list of ones to get. After nearly 35 years this made for television film remains one of the most powerful well-made films about the life of black America in the South from Civil War days, through reconstruction, KKK, and civil rights protests of the 1960s. It is an acting tour de force by Cicely Tyson, and has other excellent performances as well.

One of the things I found particularly interesting was its portrayal of southern whites as more pathetic than evil. There is a sense that the whites, even the most viciously brutal, were motivated by a desire to maintain their way of life, rather than pure evil and mindless hatred. In one scene, the young Ticey/Jane (wonderfully played by Valerie Odell) and Little Ned are on a lengthy trek towards Ohio after gaining freedom at the end of the Civil War due to the Emancipation Proclamation. They stop at a the gate to a property and a white woman gives them water, although she hates them and their kind and won't let their lips defile her drinking cup.
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This is film of the highest quality!
Syl6 April 2008
If it was shown in the movie theaters, this film would have easily earned an Academy Award for Cicely Tyson who is one of America's finest actresses period. She portrays Miss Jane Pittman as a 110 year old survivor and a former slave. Her performance is Tour-De-Force that it would bring tears to anybody's eyes. This film should be shown in acting classes for all aspiring actresses to see Miss Tyson's performance as brilliant. The movie is based on the Ernest Gaines novel of the same name and it's quality reminds us of the greatness that existed in network films of the past. Only a few years before Roots, this film earned 9 Emmy Awards and rightfully so including two for Tyson alone. It's heartbreaking at times as well as inspiring. I can't speak enough of this film and it should be shown again and again in classrooms and schools because it offers so much history as it is historical fiction. I can't forget the supporting cast of players including the wonderful Richard Dysart and Katherine Helmond and others who have made this film are all award winning.
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One of my favorite movies of all times
naconasong120 January 2007
I have loved this movie for years and have been searching for a copy of it. Cicely Tyson is extremely talented and her part as Miss Jane Pitman was perfect for her. I think that this movie should be shown to all children in the 4th or 5th grades. I would recommend it for anyone. It has been more than 20 years since I last saw it and it still has an impact on me. This would be a great movie for Black History month or for Martin Luther Kings birthday. If anyone knows where I could purchase a DVD of this movie I would be very grateful. It is something I would love to share with my Grandchildren. You should see the movie Sounder also another great movie with Ms. Tyson in it.
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A wonderful film, beautiful and touching
karlbrincat12 September 2006
The first time I saw The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittmann I remember how riveted I was by the story, the acting and the way the film was packaged together in a simple, yet powerful manner. Back in the early Eighties, there was not much to go on as far as films went that captured some of the amazing and humbling history of African Americans. I was reading Roots at the time and I found this film to be somehow more touching and more special. The memory of the film from that first viewing (which was, by the way, a well-dubbed Italian version) faded away in time, until it was reduced just to a pleasant memory of a wonderful film experience. I was not particularly looking for it when I came across it on Amazon. A flood of memories, not of scenes (well, just one), but of warmth, flooded over me. I ordered the special edition and, when it arrived, spent a delicious few hours watching the film, the included specials and rekindling all those warm feelings which I have obviously harboured for over twenty years. What a wonderful, touching, excellent film, as moving as I remember and, in my opinion, a truly little (near-perfect) gem!
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Television at its best
george-devlin13 February 2003
This movie is clearly comparable to 'Roots', another 1970's TV epic. The heart and soul of the film involves the infliction of hatred by whites on the African American from the time of legal slavery and through the turbulence of the 1960's civil rights movement. My wife remembers watching this film in grade school, and if nothing else it sure does educate. There are many moments that blatant torture of blacks is depicted in a historically vivid and all too real way. As I sat watching this film I couldn't help but ponder about how horrific people throughout history have behaved toward those that were deemed a threat, simply by virtue of their color, class or association. The movie skillfully captures how one group of American people suffered over the course of many generations.
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She's seen it all
bkoganbing18 August 2015
Two years after her Oscar nominated role in Sounder, Cicely Tyson got her second career role in The Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman for which she won an Emmy and the film itself gathered a flock of same. It is ironic that Cicely Tyson is now 91 and evolving right into the age bracket of her character Jane Pittman, originally called Ticey by her slave master.

During the course of her lifetime Ticey who is given the name of Jane by a passing Union soldier she's seen it all. Among other things she meets and marries Joe Pittman played by Rod Perry who found work as a cowboy in Texas and was killed breaking bucking horses. Tyson sees the history of black slaves, hopes cruelly dashed by a bungled reconstruction, go into a system of peonage in the Old Confederacy controlled by an unchecked racism.

She also sees the slow birth of the Civil Right movement and it is in 1962 in Mississippi Delta Louisiana that the 110 year old Jane Pittman. Even by the whites in the area Miss Jane Pittman is seen as one remarkable institution.

In the supporting cast Thalmus Rasulala stands out as her friend Ned whom she goes back with in slave days. From a kid who could hardly utter a word, Rasulala develops an articulation that those in the Populist Era south regard as downright subversive. His death scene will shatter you emotionally.

So completely does Cicely Tyson as the ancient Jane Pittman and in her flashbacks to younger days disappear and dissolve into her character that you really think you are watching a 110 year old former slave tell us of her life and travails. Helped in this is her incredible makeup. Now she wouldn't need it as she reaches those Pittman years in real life.

This is a film not to be missed. One of the best made for TV films ever done and one that makes Civil Rights history come alive.
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Wonderful well written classic
Freemind17 January 2004
This Ernest J Gaines classic happens to be in my top 10 films on all time. Mr Gaines gave us great novels as " A lesson Before Dying" and "A Gathering on old men". This is a must see movie and can be a great history lesson within itself.
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