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Lost Boundaries (1949)

Not Rated | | Drama | 2 July 1949 (USA)
This story is a true account of the lives of Scott and Marsha Carter. Having graduated from medical school, Scott Carter, a fair-skinned African American, marries Marsha Mitchell and moves ... See full summary »

Director:

Alfred L. Werker

Writers:

Ormonde Dekay Jr. (additional dialogue) (as Ormonde de Kay), Maxime Furlaud (additional dialogue) | 4 more credits »
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1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Stars: Barbara Barrie, Bernie Hamilton, Richard Mulligan
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Beatrice Pearson ... Marcia Carter
Mel Ferrer ... Scott Mason Carter
Susan Douglas Rubes ... Shelly Carter (as Susan Douglas)
Robert A. Dunn Robert A. Dunn ... Rev. John Taylor (as Rev. Robert A. Dunn)
Richard Hylton ... Howard 'Howie' Carter
Grace Coppin Grace Coppin ... Mrs. Mitchell
Carleton Carpenter ... Andy
Seth Arnold Seth Arnold ... Clint Adams
Wendell Holmes Wendell Holmes ... Mr. Morris Mitchell
Parker Fennelly Parker Fennelly ... Alvin Tupper
Ralph Riggs Ralph Riggs ... Loren Tucker
William Greaves William Greaves ... Arthur 'Art' Cooper
Ray Saunders ... Dr. Jesse Pridham (as Rai Saunders)
Leigh Whipper Leigh Whipper ... Janitor
Morton Stevens Morton Stevens ... Dr. Walter Brackett
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Storyline

This story is a true account of the lives of Scott and Marsha Carter. Having graduated from medical school, Scott Carter, a fair-skinned African American, marries Marsha Mitchell and moves to Georgia. When he arrives at the black clinic in Georgia, he discovers that the job must inconveniently go to a Southerner. Discussions between two nurses at this clinic suggest that Scott's light skin may have some bearing on the decision not to hire him. Defeated but not conquered, Scott returns to Massachusetts to live with his in-laws until he can get employment. He tries unsuccessfully to obtain employment as an African American. Because Marsha is pregnant, Scott decides to take a job at Portsmouth Hospital, but he reluctantly does so as a white man. While there, he manages to save the life of Dr. Bracket, who encourages him to take a postion in Keenham, New Hampshire. Scott decides to continue "passing" for white. In Keenham, Dr. Scott Carter proves to be quite a success for the town. For ... Written by Broncine G. Carter

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The True Story Of A Family Who Lived A Lie For Twenty Years! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 July 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Den osynliga gränsen See more »

Filming Locations:

Kittery Point, Maine, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$250,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Dr. Carter is shown traveling by U.S. Coast Guard boat from Portsmouth N.H. to the Isle of Shoals, about 6 nautical miles from the city harbor. However, when the boat arrives to its destination it is actually the Cape Neddick Lighthouse station (a.k.a. the Nubble) just off the coast from York, ME. The house the doctor is shown entering is the lighthouse keeper's residence. See more »

Connections

Referenced in That's Black Entertainment (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

I Wouldn't Mind
(uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Carleton Carpenter
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User Reviews

 
A Drama of Great Power
30 December 2016 | by Richard ChattenSee all my reviews

During the immediate postwar period Hollywood developed a new maturity and a social conscience on racial matters given expression in 1947 by two dramas about anti-Semitism, 'Crossfire' and 'Gentleman's Agreement'. Two years later, 'Lost Boundaries' was one of at least four films released in 1949 addressing discrimination against black Americans preceded by 'Home of the Brave' and followed by 'Pinky' and 'Intruder in the Dust'.

The issues addressed by 'Lost Boundaries' anticipated 'Imitation of Life' and the British 'Sapphire' by ten years, but 'Imitation of Life' itself was already based on a 1933 novel that had been filmed before in 1934. The 1934 version of 'Imitation of Life' is possibly unique in that the daughter who 'passes' was actually played by a black actress, Fredi Washington (1903-1994), who is superb, and whose failure to go on to a fruitful career in Hollywood speaks volumes. The topic remains hot today, with the White House about to be occupied by the man who sponsored the 'birther' campaign against his mixed-race predecessor (who himself once raised eyebrows by describing himself as a 'mutt'); while only last year the whole situation was turned on its head when black activist Rachel Anne Dolezal was 'outed' as white.

'Crossfire' was actually based on a novel in which the original murder victim had been a homosexual, and the issue of 'passing' for straight for the sake of a quiet life also remains a live one, as Jonathan Demme's 'Philadelphia' (1993) testified. (Richard Hylton - who plays the son in 'Lost Boundaries' - ironically returned to the stage after Fox declined to renew his contract due to rumours about his sexuality, and eventually committed suicide in San Francisco in 1962.)

Mounted by Louis de Rochemont to resemble a documentary, 'Lost Boundaries' depicts a world unfamiliar even today to many white audiences of America's black professional class, and is based on the case of Dr. Albert C. Johnston (1900-1988), a black radiologist who along with his wife Thyra (1904-1995) passed as white in thirties New Hampshire (and was even chairman of his local Republican Party) until his cover was blown when the USN withdrew his commission in 1940 after learning that he was part black. The story of Dr. Johnston and his family was the subject of a 'Reader's Digest' article in 1947, followed in 1948 by a book, 'Lost Boundaries', by William L. White (author of 'Journey for Margaret' and 'They Were Expendable') before being turned into this film, which won the award for Best Screenplay at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival and was banned in both Atlanta and Memphis. (Dr. Johnston himself continued to work in Keene, N.H. until moving to Hawaii in 1966).

For modern viewers more used to seeing Mel Ferrer in escapist Hollywood fare like 'Scaramouche' and 'Lili' his role in this is a surprise; but he is in fact one of several actors making their debuts in this film, notably Richard Hylton - whose discovery that he's black just as he was about to enter the navy has a power equivalent to the plight of the daughter in 'Imitation of Life' - and a charming and impossibly young-looking Carleton Carpenter in a smaller role. The fact that the son's situation is far from unique is revealed when a black police lieutenant observes, "Ohh, one of those cases, eh? Some times they really do go screwy". Canada Lee is excellent as usual as Lt. Thompson, and it's yet another of the film's many ironies that when he died of a heart attack three years later at the age of 45 he was at the time being hounded by the HUAC.


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