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Purlie (1981)

TV Movie  -   -  Comedy | Musical | Family
8.6
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Ratings: 8.6/10 from 69 users  
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In the early days of the civil rights movement, a Southern plantation owner holds his sharecroppers in virtual slavery. Purlie comes home as a preacher who will shake things up and bring freedom to his people.

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Title: Purlie (TV Movie 1981)

Purlie (TV Movie 1981) on IMDb 8.6/10

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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win. See more awards »
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Cast

Credited cast:
...
...
Gitlow Judson
Rhetta Hughes ...
Missy
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Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins
...
Idella Landy
Brandon Maggart ...
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Charlie Cotchipee
...
Sister Hopkins
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Loretta Abbot
Brenda Braxton
P.L. Brown
Olivia Detante
Cisco Drayton
Tanya Gibson
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Storyline

In the early days of the civil rights movement, a Southern plantation owner holds his sharecroppers in virtual slavery. Purlie comes home as a preacher who will shake things up and bring freedom to his people.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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Comedy | Musical | Family

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Did You Know?

Trivia

The original Broadway production of "Purlie" opened at the Broadway Theater in New York on March 15, 1970, ran for 688 performances and was nominated for the 1970 Tony Award for the Best Musical. Sherman Hemsley, Melba Moore {Winner of the 1970 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical) and Linda Hopkins recreated their stage roles in this filmed production. See more »

Quotes

Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins: [Lutiebelle's just been assaulted by old man Cotchipee] He kissed me!
[points to her cheek]
Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins: Right here.
Missy: Right where?
Gitlow Judson: Oh, Missy, for Pete's sake!
Purlie Victorious Judson: He kissed my woman, Gitlow. He kissed the woman I love!
Gitlow Judson: So what?
Purlie Victorious Judson: So, what do you mean "so what?" Ain't no man kisses the woman I love and lives!
[Gitlow laughs uproariously at this]
Purlie Victorious Judson: That's right, you go ahead and laugh.
[...]
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Connections

Version of Gone Are the Days! (1963) See more »

Soundtracks

I Got Love
Music by Gary Geld
Lyrics by Peter Udell
Sung by Melba Moore
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User Reviews

 
Powerful PURLIE deserves DVD release
1 October 2006 | by (Jersey City, New Jersey) – See all my reviews

Poor, neglected PURLIE! A rousing musical retread of Ossie Davis' solid play and movie from a decade earlier, PURLIE VICTORIOUS, coming at the end of the 60's Civil Rights movement, it won Tonys for Cleavon Little (four years before he would steal the show in Mel Brooks' BLAZING SADDLES) and Melba Moore (who turned the hit song "I Got Love" into a career), played 690 performances from March 15, 1970 to November 7, 1971 (during which Robert Guillaume would replace Little), toured successfully for a year and made a brief Broadway return in 1972/3.

Despite good reviews, awards and repeated appearances on the popular Ed Sullivan TV Show, PURLIE did not have a "powerhouse" producer behind it and opened as an "interim" booking at the Broadway Theatre and was never able to build to the kind of solid smash that a stronger producer could probably have made of a show of PURLIE's quality. Had GANTRY, a musical version of "Elmer Gantry" not closed on its Opening Night, PURLIE would have had to vacate the Broadway barely a month into its run for GANTRY when *its* theatre was scheduled to be torn down! As it was, in a crowded season, PURLIE had to change theatres twice (first to the Winter Garden and then to the ANTA - now August Wilson Theatre) to make way for previously booked shows before finally heading out onto the road.

A decade later, in 1981, most of the Broadway cast and production (Guillaume, who by then had built on his year in the role, making a major TV mark on SOAP and its spin-off BENSON returned as Purlie) was reassembled for a taping of the show for CBS television at a Broadway sized hall (at Lehman College) further uptown in Manhattan. The tape later all too briefly issued on VHS by MGM/CBS Video (a 142 minute print! Act I runs just over 95 minutes; Act II just under 48.).

While the show seldom reaches the heady heights of the explosion of gospel song and dance (Louis Johnson's excellent choreography) which open and close it (a funeral service at the black church where Purlie is the minister for the late, unlamented Ol' Cap' Cochipe which frames the show), it remains a fine vehicle for some of the best black actors of its day - in addition to the aforesaid Guillaume and Moore, later Tony winner Linda Hopkins, and Sherman Hemsley (playing an "Uncle Tom" character named "Gitlow - that ironically led to his career making lead as George Jefferson in THE JEFFERSONS!)...all making the most of Geld & Udell's effective "down home" tunes and the solid story that remains faithful to the original Ossie Davis play. Look for the future "Cowardly Lion" of THE WIZ, Ted Ross, and current star Brenda Braxton in the featured chorus.

The two crucial white characters (Cap'n Cochipe whose racist stranglehold on the town has to be broken and his son Charlie, a muddleheaded liberal struggling to write a good protest song . . . "That ain't it, Charlie, that ain't it") were well played for TV by Brandon Maggart from Broadway's APPLAUSE and future director Don Scardino.

While something of an artifact of its time, PURLIE holds up well on viewing a quarter century later, as the inflated prices for the long out-of-print videotape attest. Rudi Goldman's TV direction captures Philip Rose's original stage direction almost perfectly, making this one of the best filmed stage productions I can remember - the perfect blend of shots neither too close to lose the sense of the full stage nor too far to lose the intimacy of the moment. It remains a very solid show and a rattling good time for all, black or liberated white.

When it finally *does* get the well deserved DVD release, I hope the producers make the effort to license *at least* the clip from the Ed Sullivan Show showing the opening number with Cleavon Little as a "bonus" for comparison. Both leads are excellent, but in very different ways in the title role. Little was thrilling fire and ice, but Guillaume comes across closer to the *original* Purlie Victorious, Ossie Davis, and that's good too.


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