In 1940s Chicago, a young black man takes a job as a chauffeur to a white family, which takes a turn for the worse when he accidentally kills the teenage daughter of the couple and then tries to cover it up.
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Bigger Thomas, an African American who lives in an impoverished neighborhood, is employed by a prosperous white family who live in the suburbs of a major city. The money Bigger makes at his new job will be used to supplement his mother's income. As a chauffeur, he is directed by the father of the family to take Mary, the daughter, to the university. Instead, Mary decides to pick up her Socialist boyfriend, Jan, and to spend the time drinking and partying. Jan and Mary portray a young liberal couple who venture into a black neighborhood with Bigger for the sole purpose of being entertained at Ernie's, a black nightclub. On the way home, Mary becomes inebriated and Bigger must get her to her bedroom without being detected. Mary's mother, who is blind, enters the room and Bigger panics at the thought of being caught with a white woman. He accidentally kills Mary by placing a pillow over her head to keep her quiet. Still frightened, Bigger disposes of the body in the furnace, possibly ... Written by
Broncine G. Carter
Few movies ever measure up to the books they're based on, and sometimes the only safe way to judge a literary adaptation is on its own terms, as if the source material never existed. Which makes the screen version of Richard Wright's celebrated novel faithfully set in 1940 Chicago a curiously dated social artifact. It demands a little mental arithmetic to update the story, about an angry young ghetto black who, in a moment of fear and desperation, accidentally suffocates the daughter of the wealthy, white family for whom he works as a servant. The issues of black and white are rightfully shown to be shaded with gray, but the production may be too slick for its own good. The film might have worked better had it been more harsh and controversial, more willing to disturb the complacency of self-satisfied viewers who, like Elizabeth McGovern's character, seek to prove their open-minded color blindness by their condescending ignorance of the wide gulf separating the two races. A talented, high profile cast is enough reason to recommend the film.
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