Althea Gibson, a truant from the rough streets of Harlem, emerged as a most unlikely queen of the highly segregated tennis world of the 1950's. Say the name Althea Gibson to most people and... See full summary »
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Michael Beach Nichols,
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Althea Gibson, a truant from the rough streets of Harlem, emerged as a most unlikely queen of the highly segregated tennis world of the 1950's. Say the name Althea Gibson to most people and you'll met a blank stare. However, no player overcame more obstacles to become a champion, the first African-American to play and win at Wimbledon and Forest Hills, a decade before the great Arthur Ashe, only to be shunned by the Tennis Establishment. He roots as a sharecropper's daughter, her family's migration north to Harlem, her mentoring from Sugar Ray Robinson, David Dinkins and others, her fame that thrust her unwillingly into the glare of the early Civil Rights movement, all bring the story into a much broader realm of African-American History. Written by
Excellent Sports Biography; Delivers at a Higher Level than a Mere Linear Account
I very much enjoy the game of tennis, and particularly enjoy its history, especially its progression in the post-war era, through the Civil Rights realm (throughout the world), and now to a gender-equality battles that continue on. That said, I went in to this film thinking 'specialty content,' 'strictly art house,' and 'interesting only to those who would be interested' sort of sub-genre of film. That's not what happened. What emerged, instead, was a portrait of a very complex character, certainly made more complex and challenging by the times, but who would have been a standout for her persona in almost any era. Far more than a mere 'sports film,' in other words, and with a poignant and very bittersweet ending. A final plug: the film has some very interesting narrators who guide you through the times, the contexts in which Gibson developed her tennis skills, and certainly the way she adapted around the times, which never fully embraced her unique blend of renegade posture and stance with her very keen awareness of how to play to her audience. The narrators become friends almost, not merely recounting how Gibson did this or that but the sometimes tortured way she processed the world around here. A wonderful movie experience in the sense that it fully surprised me and delivered far more than I had calculated it could.
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