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The River Niger (1976)

R | | Drama | 14 April 1976 (USA)
An intimate look at life in the ghetto: Johnny Williams is a house painter who moonlights as a poet, struggling to financially and emotionally support his cancer-ridden wife Mattie. But ... See full summary »



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Cast overview:
Mattie Williams
Dr. Dudley Stanton (as Lou Gossett)
Jeff Williams
Ann Vanderguild
Big Moe Hayes
Ralph Wilcox ...
Teddy Wilson ...
Hilda Haynes ...
Wilhelmina Geneva Brown
Ed Crick ...
White Police Lieutenant
Black Policeman


An intimate look at life in the ghetto: Johnny Williams is a house painter who moonlights as a poet, struggling to financially and emotionally support his cancer-ridden wife Mattie. But times are tough and the poverty-troubled streets are even tougher, and it takes every ounce of Johnny's love and courage for the couple to make it through their strife, finding redemption in the River Niger. Written by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Some rivers can't be dammed...some people won't be broken.




R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

14 April 1976 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The Broadway production of "The River Niger" opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in New York on March 27, 1973 and ran for 162 performances. Joseph A. Walker wrote both the play and the screenplay for this filmed production. See more »


Referenced in Call Me Angel, Sir (1976) See more »

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User Reviews

Different but Good
18 June 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This film contains several well known actors in some different types of roles than the ones we are used to seeing them in. For instance, there's Roger E. Mosely (TC on Magnum PI) as Big Moe, an activist/leader & Glynn Turman (Cooley High & the TV show, A Different World) as Jeff, who has just come home from flight school and is trying to stay out of trouble, but yet at the same time help the cause and his friends. With this movie, we get to see James Earl Jones (Johnny) as a regular everyday working man, a house painter, who just happens to have a knack for some of the most beautiful poetry around. Though he has his own problems, he still tries the best way he knows how to support his family. He is very proud of his son Jeff's accomplishments in flight school and wants more than anything to see him in his uniform. Cicely Tyson plays the ever-supporting wife, Mattie, who loves her husband (despite his 'ways') and family more than anything in the world. She tries to keep herself together even though she and her family are facing some very trying times. The grandmother, Geneva Wilhemnia Brown, is played by the lovely Hilda Haynes. She adds a bit of comic flair at times to the film and interacts especially well with Johnny. The talented Lou Gossett is Johnny's best friend & confidante, who often has to bail him out. These are two buddies who really love each other, even though they rib on each other a lot. The role of Anne was brilliantly done by Jonelle Allen as Jeff's fiancé.

In this film, Johnny & his son, Jeff must ultimately choose between what is right & what is best for for the family. These two strong-willed, passionate men are more alike than they realize and Mattie often has to be the voice of reason & neutrality. I feel that the ending, should have been more complete and given more of an "ending", so that the viewer wouldn't be left with any questions.

A well made film, though it doesn't seem to be too well known. This is the film adaptation of an off-Broadway play that garnered a Tony! Enjoy this worthwhile family drama!

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