7.2/10
184
7 user 1 critic

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1979)

Based on writer Maya Angelou's childhood, this story is about a young girl in the South who is sent to live with her grandmother after her parents divorce.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Benjamin ...
Freeman
...
Vivian
...
Grandmother Baxter
...
Bailey Sr.
...
Momma
...
Miss Flowers
Constance Good ...
Maya
John Driver ...
Bailey Jr. (as John M. Driver II)
Sonny Jim Gaines ...
Uncle Willie
...
Principal
J. Don Ferguson ...
Mr. Donleavy
Georgia Allen ...
Mrs. Gurney
Darleen Taylor ...
1st Girl
Darryl Antony Williams ...
Tommy Valdon (as Darryl Williams)
...
Lillie (as Tommie Stewart)
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Storyline

A true story based on the early life of actress, professor and author Maya Angelou. The story traces her life from when she and her brother move in with her mother to the trauma of being raped as a little girl by one of her mother's boyfriends and the several years of silence that came after the attack. Written by Brian Washington <Sargebri@att.net>

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Genres:

Biography | Drama

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Release Date:

28 April 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Miksi häkkilintu laulaa  »

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1.33 : 1
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Connections

Referenced in The Venture Bros.: I Know Why the Caged Bird Kills (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Where Maya Angelou Came From
1 June 2014 | by (Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada) – See all my reviews

Maya Angelou died just a few days ago, and I happened to stumble across this movie version of her autobiography (at least of her early years) on the internet. I know of Angelou essentially as a poet (and, I must confess, I'm not all that familiar with her work) and so I was interested to get a look at her formative years. This movie certainly offers a picture of what her early life was like. Angelou's upbringing wasn't easy. Along with her brother, she was farmed out to her grandparents in Arkansas for several years, before being taken by her father, supposedly to live with him in California, except that she was left with her mother in St. Louis.

The portrayal of the years in Arkansas present a picture of the racism of the era, including encounters (not graphically depicted) with the Ku Klux Klan along with some reflections on the state of black education in the area. There's also a completely non-graphic but still unsettling portrayal of her being raped by her mother's boyfriend at a young age in St. Louis, and then being unable to speak for several years because of the guilt she felt afterward when her uncles beat the rapist to death. But for all the troubles depicted, this is an inspiring movie about an inspiring person. Angelou had a lot to overcome to achieve what she did. One thing I would have preferred would have been if the movie had continued on a little later in Angelou's life. I understand that the book actually followed her life into her teens. This doesn't. Which is unfortunate, because Angelou's life, from what I read, was a fascinating one well into her adult years.

Maya was played by a young actress named Constance Good, for whom this seems to have been her only film credit. I thought she was all right in the role, but certainly not overpowering in any way. There are a number of fairly well known black actors and entertainers playing roles in this - people such as Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee, Madge Sinclair and Esther Rolle all appear. Well known, perhaps, but at times - to me at least - the performances were a bit lacking, Rolle's (as Maya's grandmother) probably being the best. It's a made for TV movie, so it lacks the big budget of a splashy Hollywood production, and that shows, but it's still a pretty good film.

The version of the movie I saw was rather grainy and shaky, which detracted a little bit from my ability to enjoy it. Still, it's a good look at Maya Angelou's young life, and at the conditions out of which she had to climb to reach the heights she eventually did. (6/10)


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