User ReviewsAdd a Review
Diahann Carroll, in the title role, plays a single mother raising -- oh, four or five or six -- kids while working as a maid for a wealthy, affluent family.
James Earl Jones, as a garbage man, is smitten with Claudine. However, he has problems of his own, and the idea of committing to Claudine has him running scared.
The characters have pride and love, and, even though this isn't original, I found "Claudine" to be quite inviting. The performances (especially from Carroll, who won a well-deserved best-actress Oscar nomination for a role that had originally been cast with Diana Sands, who had to drop out due to a bout with cancer that would eventually kill her in September 1973) seem flawless, because the actors have a firm grasp and understanding of where "Claudine" is at, in terms of heart, mind, and soul.
And "Claudine" has plenty of those three to spare. It's well-worth checking out, if you haven't already done so.
It appears that the idea of producing these films of particularly keen interest to Black Americans had its genesis with the Eastertime Release of 100 RIFLES (Marvin Schwartz Prod./20th Century-Fox, 1969). In it, former Syracuse University All-American Footballer and Several Times All-Pro Fullback for the Cleveland Browns, Jim Brown, had a Co-Starring Billing. Having appeared in a number of films already, as for example, RIO CONCHOS (1964),THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967), (ICE STTION ZEBRA (1968)* and others, it was beginning to make more sense to the Studios' "Suits" that Jim was a hot property.
Now this 100 RIFLES brings record numbers of Black patrons to the Big Cities' central business districts on Easter Sunday to view Mr. Brown. Why not start to film more of these adventure epics and other types of film with more Black Players and Stars? Why not, indeed.** So we saw a succession of Cops & Robbers, Bad-ass Private Detective Films, Comedies, all going the route. Along the way, we eventually got to some more family oriented, wider appealing films. The movie goers were treated to SOUNDER (1972), THE TAKE (1974), CONRACK (1974)and, ultimately, CLAUDINE (1974).
In CLAUDINE, we find no stigma nor easy classification as being "Blackploitation", as the story is universal, and could easily have been done as a story about people of any descent, any where, and not just in the 1970's USA.
That the story was done of a SINGLE mother, Claudine (Dianne Carroll), struggling to keep a family together after "....two marriages and two almost marriages.", is a far cry from a shoot-em-up Harlem Style. The problems that plague the everyday citizens of our nation are confronted and examined under the ol' sociological microscope.
But we also consider Claudine's psychological and physical needs as a female. For "Woman Needs Man and Man Must Have His MATE",***and we do concede this point. (That's S-E-X that we're talking about, Schultz!) Claudine meets up with a very masculine, broad shouldered, athletic type in Private Scavanger Garbage Man, Ruppert B. Marshall (James Earl Jones) and they go on a date.
The Great Welfare State intervenes with the Couple as Claudine's Welfare Case Worker, Miss Tayback (Elisa Loti), comes snooping around to see just who is this unattached Male, who is suddenly paying so much attention to Claudine's family.
After a humiliating experience with the Welfare Bureau's auditing and "deducting" binge, which would be the norm for the family, the two decide to get married with or without the blessing of Big Brother.
Meanwhile, Claudine's elder son has gotten involved with some big talking but little doing Black Activist group. But, with Ruppert's help, he and they all come through it A.O.K.
It ends on a Happy, Upbeat and Hopeful note. We know that it may not be exactly "...Happily Ever After!", but rather the'll make it all together! If there is a single criticism that we must state it is that sometimes in a movie like this, a misconception is spread to a large portion of Urban Blacks. And that is, the apparent implied myth that all Whites are wealthy, having none of their kind ever in need of a helping hand, out of work or suffering any disabilities.
Well, folks, it just ain't true! NOTE: * At one point, Jim Brown's career was a real hit as a rugged actioner. He was even being tauted as "...The Black John Wayne." NOTE: ** The idea of producing films with All-Black Casts, filmed for All-Black consumption was not a new idea. In the 1920's, '30's and '40's, we saw productions from people like Noble Johnson, Spencer Williams, Jr. and Rex Ingram.
NOTE: *** That's "As Time Goes By", you know, Schultz, it's from CASABLANCA (Warner Brothers, 1942).
It is a warm movie about a family sticking together through everything.
I saw this movie when it was first released and enjoyed it then, it was very nice to find it on TV so I could tape it and enjoy it over and over again.
The movie reminds me of the TV sitcom "Good Times", and fans of that TV show should enjoy this movie, it's just not as silly as the TV show could often be.
Recommended, and I would not steer you wong!
Carroll is a wonder. One of the most beautiful actresses of her era, here she manages to be believable as an over-worked, under loved mother in the ghetto. Equal parts pain, pride, vulnerability, smarts and strength she was one of the first African Americans to get an Oscar nomination in a drama. Jones does some of his best film work. Always a great of the American theater, in his early films Jones often came off as too theatrical, larger than life. But here is he subtle, sly, complicated, and very sexy. The young actors playing Carroll's six children are uniformly excellent, often a weak spot in a film like this.
There are problems; some plot turns are predictable, some moments feel a bit 'Hollywood', some of it feels awkwardly dated. But much of it is as relevant as ever, and not afraid to be upsetting and angry along with it's gentle comedy.
Two notes, while often marketed as a 'family' film, this deals with sex and nudity in an honest and realistic way, and it's language is salty and true. Also, sadly, the only available DVD is full screen – too bad since the film was quite nicely shot in its gritty way.
I've never even HEARD of this movie until FXM showed it one night. It seems to have disappeared and thats too bad. It's easily got to be one of the most honest and accurate portrayals about growing up poor and black in the city. I'm not black but I've read books on the subject and had some friends who lived like this and this movie hits the subjects right on. Also this is one of the few movies where the kids act and talk like kids--not like little adults. The language is strong (there's plenty of casual swearing and sex talk) but that's how people act and talk. Also this film doesn't shrink from Claudine and Roop having sex--it presents it in a matter of fact way. The script is OK but tries to cover all the bases of being poor and struggling with kids--that's WAY too much for one movie. Also it seems to pile one disaster after another on Claudine. It's gets to be overkill. I also didn't buy the happy shots during the closing credits. Still this is an exceptional movie that seems to have fallen between the cracks. The acting is great--Carroll and Jones are so young and full of life and energy. Carroll was nominated for an Oscar for this film. Also, among her kids, is Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs who went on the star in the TV series "Welcome Back Kotter".
I do have to point out that the language is STRONG in this one and it has flashes of nudity (female). It wouldn't get a PG today--it would get an R. Still it's just being honest and there's nothing wrong with that!
I remember seeing "Claudine" in the late 70's on cable TV, and just watched it for the first time since then. It's not bad, but it does indeed say a few things. It also challenges what many people consider "stereotypes" in today's politically-correct world, portraying these "stereotypes" as cold-hearted truisms.
Of course, things were not "PC" back in 1974 when this was made. Claudine is a black mother of six (count 'em, six) children, living in Harlem, surviving on welfare and her secret housekeeping job on the side. The six kids are all total brats - they do nothing but scream at each other, fight each other, and give their mother Claudine a hard time. Despite that she breaks her back for them, they show no respect towards her whatsoever.
They do act as a team, however, whenever the welfare social worker comes to the apartment to check on things (she's white of course), which they always manage to see her coming up the block - do they take turns as full-time lookouts? They then hide whatever "extras" they have, like a toaster, etc., to appear even more poor than they are so welfare doesn't deduct any money for the extra things.
Welfare is a villain in the film, and it's made clear many times. Claudine always complains she can't take care of her family - but she has six kids! And she's 36 years old! Even James Earl Jones's character, Roop, expresses shock when she reveals she's a 36-year old mother of six. (Claudine was pretty angry.) Now, it takes two to tango, but six kids at 36! Another "villain" of the film, is the black man as a father. It is made very clear that black men run out on their kids and families. In today's time, that is a popular "stereotype," and here, in the non-PC world of 1974, it is presented as fact. So what's the truth? Claudine's children even express severe skepticism at her new beau Roop, just waiting for him to eventually leave their mom, which of course, he does.
Claudine, incidentally, looks amazing. Diahann Carroll is a very beautiful woman, and in the film, as a mother of six, she is in amazing physical condition. That's part of the fantasy of the film. Have you ever seen a mom, at 36 who had six babies, look so amazing? The funny thing is, it's Darth Vader's body we keep seeing almost nude, not Claudine's. As they spend their first night together, Jones gets out of bed a lot, and the camera always shoots Jones in a clever way as we always see something blocking his "private parts" (although we are lucky enough to see his nude butt though). So if you want to see "sexy" James Earl Jones walk around nude, you got it! Diahann Carroll, well with her we're just not as fortunate. Roop, a garbage man with kids in other parts of the country, has been eying Claudine for a while before finally asking her on a date, then meeting her six wild kids.
One of the kids is the oldest, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, a very radical teenager who shows zero respect for his mom like the other kids. he does warn Roop that he'll pay if he makes his mother cry, which he does when Roop leaves her. Jacobs then tracks down Roop and beats the hell out of him, the only show in the film that Jacobs cares about his mom. We never get a scene that shows her reacting to his showing of caring, even if the caring was beating Roop up. Jacobs even disrupts and destroys their eventual wedding by running in the middle of it while being chased by the cops (he also obviously had better things to do, like go to a protest, than attend his mom's wedding).
Which leads to another fantasy of the film, how a black man, after it is established that black men always leave their fatherly responsibilities behind, marries a woman with six kids, none of which are his. Even forgetting about race, any man marrying a woman with six children who are not his children is something that you simply never hear of, and one of the things that turns this "real life drama" into a fairy tale.
The "white man" is another of the film's villains, even to Claudine, who says to Jacobs that "the white man tries to take away your manhood, but you go do it yourself" after he gets himself "fixed." Her oldest daughter gets pregnant, of course, by yet another uncaring black man. I was surprised that the one time we see Claudine's white couple she works for, that they weren't all nasty and mean white people. The husband was actually a very nice guy, and the wife wasn't bad, although she complained on the telephone that Claudine was late for work again. We also overhear the wife talking some "big business" on the phone, just to remind the audience how well-off all white people are, of course.
The ending of the film sees them all race away in the back of a police van (!), and then the film ends in perfect fairy-tale mode, with Claudine, Roop and the six kids all walking on the street, everyone all smiles, hand-in-hand, including Jacobs' rebel character! Jacobs is going to move out, the oldest daughter is going to move into a place with her boyfriend (turns out he cares about the baby they're going to have, but we never meet him on screen), and Roop will move into Claudine's apartment. Everything works out great, no wonder everyone is smiling and laughing as they walk in the street for the finale!
"Claudine" isn't really a bad film, but it is important to recognize all the fantasy elements that make it quite an unrealistic film.
Claudine (Diahann Carroll) is a mother on welfare who works on the sly in order to support her six kids. She works very hard at low-paying jobs and has little time for anything other than her kids and work. However, when she meets a vivacious garbage collector, Roop (James Earl Jones), she is swept off her feet and they immediately start sleeping together (if guns have a three day waiting period, shouldn't there be a similar system for sex?). Soon, however, it goes from casual sex and good times to something serious--and that's when troubles begin. It seems that the welfare system is designed to prevent women from having families--and destroying marriage. What's to become of this couple and the six kids? See the film and find out for yourself.
The acting is the best thing about this film. In addition to Carroll and Jones' great acting, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs has a very auspicious film debut as Claudine's angry and mixed-up oldest son. The film also has a lot of great insights into the stupidity of the welfare system and what it was like to grown up at that time. However, and I know some folks will think I am a jerk for saying it, but I also couldn't help but feel that some of the problems were CLEARLY caused by the characters. Claudine has six kids she cannot take care of and then jumps into bed with Roop on their first date!! Morality aside, this is insane behavior and shows a nutty unwillingness to accept reality. Despite this dumb mixed message, the film, on balance, is well worth seeing.
One word of warning: While the description and the "PG" rating may make this movie sound family-friendly, the movie has enough nudity, adult situations, and harsh language that would get this movie at least a "PG- 13" rating today (maybe even an "R" rating.)
In a non-singing role, Diahann Carroll received a best actress nomination for her portrayal of a 36 year old woman with 6 children. She supposedly has had 2 marriages, but you have to wonder about that. She meets garbage man James Earl Jones and the two immediately begin a relationship. Jones is excellent as the man who is looking for a life, but can't get it due to his being hailed into court by one of his ex-wives for more financial support.
The story really boils down to the fact whether or not these 2 people can find happiness.
Carroll slaps her daughter around when she finds her pregnant. The last scene with the attempted marriage of Carroll and Jones is fruitless at best. I'd expect something like this from the Jeffersons.
The film is basically an insult to black-America. Didn't the Jeffersons state that we're moving on up? The film is rather a cheap exploitation of the cliché black experience in America. Blacks were so right in demanding better roles other than the maid and butler. The same should be true of films depicting them.