Sapphire (1959) Poster

(1959)

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10/10
superb intelligent thriller
kreeper24 July 2003
this is one of the most underappreciated films of all times. it is a superbly acted and directed film with a very intelligent and well crafted screenplay. the "twist" is revealed just at the right moment and is not played for any exploitative reason but still resonates throughout the course of the film. i have the video of this film, which is not listed anywhere and just got the poster, that is how much i love this film. if you are looking for a stupid bang bang movie don't bother, if you're looking for a goofy feel good movie, go elsewhere, but if you appreciate well-crafted film making this is your movie.
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serious race issues discussed honestly
cloisterbell-121 April 2006
I was amazed by the shocking brutality of the racism in this film. In America, we are rarely presented with such casual racism; in films of the 50s, race is practically never dealt with in films, as Todd Haynes "remake" of Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows tries to make up for. And current films about the 50s present such two dimensional characters that it is easy to tell the racist villains from the open-minded heroes. In Sapphire, filmed in Britain in the 1950s, one of the most interesting characters is Michael Craig's detective, supposedly our hero, but constantly making racist remarks. His comments are always countered by the more reasonable older inspector, but this allows his gradual transformation throughout the film. Although some of the film is a bit heavy-handed, ultimately the message is sadly still relevant. 4 out of 5.
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7/10
Bold For Its Time
robertconnor12 March 2007
When a young woman's body is discovered on London's Hampstead Heath, the ensuing investigation quickly focuses on racial bigotry and hatred in 1950s Britain, exposing the prejudice amongst those under investigation AND those investigating.

Like so many other films from the 1940s and 1950s, Sapphire is yet another piece of groundbreaking British cinema now long forgotten. A little clunky and overly reliant on stereotyping by today's standards, but still a fascinating exploration of the fears and struggles inherent in a newly mixed-race society. Dearden has brought together an interesting cast here, cleverly giving matinée idol Craig a fairly unsympathetic role as a racist police officer, and being superbly served by Mitchell - her final scene is at once both compelling and distressing. Too many British cinema actors of the 40's and 50's have now been forgotten, and Mitchell is a prime example of why individual and collective reappraisals and retrospectives are long overdue.

Interesting companion piece to 1961's Flame In The Streets, then, and definitely worth catching if you can.
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10/10
Explosive drama about racial hatred
kidboots24 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
British cinema in the 50s saw an explosion of realistic "kitchen sink" dramas that tried to explore the problems the post war generation faced. "Cosh Boy" (1952) dealt with kids running wild, "Violent Playground" (1957) with juvenile delinquency and the problems associated with high rise housing estates. Even though Janet Green's list of screenplay credits are short, each of them can take their place among the best British films of the 50s and 60s (except "Midnight Lace"). They usually featured strong story lines, often about minorities ("Life for Ruth", also with Michael Craig dealt with Jehovah's Witnesses, "Victim" was about homosexuality).

"Sapphire" must have caused a sensation when it was first released. It deals with racism in all forms, white against black, black against black (one of Sapphire's former boyfriends says "My father would never allow me to marry Sapphire - she is only half black!!!").

The film begins with the startling discovery of the body of a young arts student. When her brother comes down to identify the body, Sup. Hazard (Nigel Patrick) realises that Sapphire is black!!! From then on Hazard encounters racism at every turning. His partner (Michael Craig) says "these spades should be sent home to their own country". The landlady, is very protective of Sapphire but when she learns of the girl's heritage she is horrified. Sapphire's friend then gives the landlady a piece of her mind but when the landlady retorts with "When you introduced Sapphire to your parents - did you tell them she was coloured" there is silence. "Well I am not the only one who is racist" - that is extremely true in this film.

Sapphire is pregnant (something else that would have shocked 50s audiences) and engaged to David (Paul Massie) whose family is a caulderon of racial tension. The mother is nice, the father (Bernard Miles) is an racist and the daughter, as a constable says "she's her father all over again". David is introverted and under the father's thumb. Yvonne Mitchell is riveting as Mildred, whose bottled up racism explodes in a scene that catches everyone by surprise (maybe not Sup. Hazard). She is married to a merchant seaman and has twin daughters, who she is very ambitious for. She is very jealous of the love she perceives Sapphire and David have for each other. Unfortunately, Sapphire is "passing for white" so the happiness is not going to last.

Highly recommended.
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8/10
In which Mr Michael Craig confronts the Myth of Black Sexuality
ianlouisiana25 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A very brave movie shot barely a year after the quite shocking interracial violence in Notting Hill,"Sapphire" gives a true picture of the prejudices and ignorance on both sides of the racial divide. The casual racism of both communities may be horrific to 21st century audiences.The very fact that the cinema was allowed to portray such attitudes graphically illustrates how much freedom was given to art in the so - called "repressed" 1950s,in contrast to how proscribed it has become in this the first decade of these "enlightened" times. As usual,the police - merely of course a microcosm of society - get some stick for reflecting the views of the community they come from. Sapphire is a pale - skinned West Indian girl "Passing for white",or a "Lilyskin" as she is referred to in this film. Nowadays the term "Coconut" might be used in an equally abusive sense.The film begins with the the discovery of her body.The police are convinced that the solution to her murder lies within the black community,and,once this idea has taken root,are unable to see the case in any other light,adopting a kind of tunnel vision where they tailor the facts to fit their theories, a situation that prevails in many investigations to this day and has - in the past - led to several miscarriages of justice.Fortunately they do eventually switch tack and find the murderer amongst Sapphire's white fiancé's family.

Mr M.Craig proved in this and the later "Life for Ruth",that he was a lot more than a lightweight second - string.He keeps a lid on his more overt racism under the more sophisticated eye of his superior(the versatile Mr N.Patrick) who moves carefully between the outraged blacks and the outraged whites,well aware of the tightrope he is walking. At the core of the film is the perceived suspicion of the whites at the myth of Black Sexuality.Hands may now be raised in horror that such stereotypical beliefs but it would be idle to deny their existence. Many years ago when I was in the Met I had ,as a partner,a very sharp and beautiful black woman.One night - one of many spent de - stressing in an East London pub - I,rather the worst I fear,for drink,pushed a fifth or sixth vodka in front of her and ventured,"Well Marlene,what do you think about The Myth of Black Sexuality?"She fixed me with a sardonic eye and said straight - faced,"What myth?". So it would appear to be a matter of embarrassment to some and pride to others . It certainly caused the unfortunate Sapphire to be murdered,and nearly half a century later,is still the cause of discomfort and suspicion between the races.The only difference in that respect between now and 1959 is that debate on the matter is not encouraged.
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10/10
Sapphire
dfisher-carter17 December 2004
I saw this movie (for the first time) when cable TV was new to Birmingham, Alabama. It was aired on a channel out of Chicago. Throughout the years, I have tried unsuccessfully to find a copy. Then...about three months ago, I found a collector with a copy in mint-condition. It has been well worth the money I spent. I watch it at least once a week. The cast worked very well together and the soundtrack is still hypnotic. The subject matter is addressed with a level of cinematic respect that makes the viewer sit up and take notice: no cursing and no lewd scenes...just raw and compelling acting. Like a bottle of old wine, Sapphire gets better and better as it ages. I'm hoping that no one will insult those of us who truly love this film by screening a cheesy re-make. That would be an insulting.
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10/10
Sapphire greatly conveys the prejudices of Great Britain as well as solves a mystery
tavm4 February 2012
So far during this year's Black History Month, I've been reviewing American films. What I'm commenting on now took place and was filmed in Britain. In this one, a Sapphire Robbins (Yvonne Buckingham) is found dead at Hampstead Heath. Superintendent Robert Hazard (Nigel Patrick) and partner Inspector Phil Learoyd (Michael Craig) investigate who done it. Her boyfriend David Harris (Paul Massie) and brother, a Dr. Robbins (Earl Cameron) are also interested though the former has his own secrets to hide along with his sister Mildred (Yvonne Mitchell) and possibly their parents (Bernard Miles and Olga Lindo). By the way, since the doctor has dark skin and his late sister is light, there's also a racial aspect involved...When I first watched this on American Movie Classics back in the mid '80s (by the way, this was the first I actually watched on that channel), it was intriguing enough for me that I would have loved to have seen it again much sooner than just now on YouTube if I had the chance. Now that I indeed have, it's even more compelling as both a mystery and pretty intense drama on the social tensions that I'm sure were very prevalent during that time in England. Especially considering the way characters of both races reveal their prejudices in both subtle and blatant ways. And besides Cameron, other people of color worth noting that appeared here include Gordon Heath as Paul Slade, Harry Gaird as Johnnie Fiddle (who is identified among other Johnnys at a bar), Orlando Martins as a barman, and Robert Adams as Horace Big Cigar. Really, this was a fine British drama that greatly tackled the way prejudices of most kinds were displayed there. P.S. I didn't know about the stereotype of cops having big feet there. Sure beats the one about donuts here!
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10/10
Murder mystery set in England about a girl found dead in a park soon discovered to have been passing for white.
carolscott56423 December 2007
I first saw the movie Sapphire on the Million Dollar Movie one night and I fell in love with it. I"m one for a good mystery movie and this is the one. From start to finish and when the movie did end I wanted more. The movie's ending will surprise you. The cast was excellent and actors Nigel Patrick Earl Cameron and Yvonne Mitchell were just great. I finally purchased this movie from one of those hard to find videos company on VHS. This movie needs to be released on DVD!!!! The racism in Sapphire was very brutal and honest. Here you had the tragic mulatto who is murdered I think of Imitation of Life where Susan Kohner's Sarah Jane is passing for white to the point she gets beaten up by her secret white lover, she was lucky!!!!!!!
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7/10
Deeply shocking crime investigation thriller exposing race hatreds
robert-temple-125 November 2007
This is one of the most shocking films ever made about the true depths of colour prejudice in Britain in the 1950s, and the violent hatreds of black people harboured at that time by the white British working classes, especially in London. The film is well-scripted, and boldly directed by Basil Dearden, and it shows without flinching the true state of feeling as it was in those days (with some strong anti-white prejudice by blacks thrown in, to demonstrate that things are never only one way). What is so utterly horrifying about watching all of this now is, that it really was all true then. It is inevitable that some of the characters both white and black should resemble stereotypes, perhaps for the reason that at that time, people genuinely were stereotypes. The story concerns a police investigation of a murder of a young girl who was a student at the Royal Academy of Music (half way through the film a policeman calls it the Royal College of Music; Londoners are always confusing the two separate institutions in that way, so perhaps this script flaw merely reflects real life). Her body is found on Hampstead Heath in London, and there are no clues apart from the initial 'S' (her name is eventually discovered to be Sapphire). As a crime investigation thriller, the film is solid and extremely well done. A spectacular cameo performance is given by the black actor Robert Adams as 'Horace Big Cigar', not long before he died. The acting is all reliable and convincing. Dearden is especially good at not allowing any of the women and children to scream when discovering a body or having a horrible experience: his technique was extremely subtle, and they instead stifle screams, a scream begins to form, and then they put their own hands over their mouths in horror. When identifying a corpse, the actor behaves as one would naturally do, with numb paralysed shock, remaining silent and staring. All the ridiculous Hollywood histrionics and stock reactions of approved hysteria and screaming females are eliminated from this very British film, in which there is no place for hysteria except with one black character who panics for story reasons. Sociologists should really see this film. However, it is so incendiary that I cannot see it ever being released again or even being shown on television, at least not in Britain. In fact, some of the comments in the film may even have become 'illegal' under the harsh new race relations laws, even in a fictional context! Anyone who thinks race problems have gone away does not know human nature. Sensitivity to small differences, such as skin colour, is so firmly rooted in animal behaviour (the isolation by the herd of the black sheep, the driving away of albino animals from the pack), that race hatreds are inescapable, and can only be suppressed, never eradicated. Seeing this film reminds one of this depressing aspect of life by a blatant portrayal of it which is almost too painful to watch.
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9/10
Unflinching and ahead of its time...Dearden does it again.
MartinHafer30 June 2013
Basil Dearden directed some dandy films--and a set of them are available through Criterion and frankly, all are quite impressive. With films like "Victim", "The League of Gentlemen" and "Sapphire", it's one of the best collections I've seen from this company.

The film begins with the discovery of a dead woman in the park. However, this turns out to be anything but a routine case when the police investigate. First, it turns out the lady was pregnant. Second, it turns out that although she appeared quite Caucasian, she was black and posing as a white woman. While this sort of plot might seem pretty routine today, back in 1959 it was absolutely daring--and the sort of picture Hollywood NEVER would have done. I not only appreciate the daring subject matter, but also the amazingly unflinching way it approached racism. In fact, I am not even sure that they could make a movie like this today--given the bluntness of the language--but that is what makes this movie great. Racism IS horrible and the language they use make it seem horrible.

The bottom line is that the film is amazingly good. The film is free of clichés and is very well written. I also appreciate the wonderful job Nigel Patrick did in playing the chief inspector--one of the only seemingly sane people in the film! Well worth seeing and amazingly brave. It's not surprising then that the film won the BAFTA (sort of like the British version of the Oscar) for Best Picture.
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8/10
A really intense experience.
Peter2206030 November 2001
The real problem with television broadcasting is that the better movies of the last century are held from the viewers. SAPPHIRE could be shown as a double bill with AN INSPECTOR CALLS. There are not enough movie buffs to push some of these classics so that they can be shown to today's audiences ..which would really appreciate them.
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10/10
I saw this movie when it came out....
twistedude2 June 2009
..and when, and from where--will I ever see it again? I was 24, and saw it in Chicago. It astonished me with its understatement, its true-to-life behavior, its laying bare of the prejudice I saw around me every day.

I had already seen "Dead of Night"--in which Dearden directed the frame, and the first episode ("Room for just one inside, Sir!")--and had found these parts of the film nearly as impressive as the Cavalcanti (Michael Redgrave as a ventriloquist tortured by his dummy...or..not?).

I got "Victim" about 2 years ago, and it's one of my favorite films.

Dearden seems singularly lacking in humor...until you realize--there's nothing really funny going on, is there? Surely, there's a VHS tape somewhere....
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9/10
Well-Crafted Racially Charged Thriller
IboChild30 December 1998
Effectively uses the conventions of a standard murder mystery to reveal racial prejudice in 1950s London. Some of the performances by black characters are a bit exaggerated, but Earl Cameron is fine as the brother of the murder victim.
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8/10
very good
blanche-213 July 2015
Excellent film, directed by Basil Dearden, who directed Dead of Night and Victim, two marvelous movies.

Sapphire takes place in the '50s - the film was released in 1959 - in England. A young woman is found dead in a park. It turns out her name is Sapphire Robbins, and she was engaged to a young man, David Harris (Paul Massie). The autopsy shows that she was three months' pregnant, and David admits that he was the father.

When Sapphire's brother (Earl Cameron) shows up, the superintendent in charge of the case (Nigel Patrick) is surprised that he's black. Sapphire was passing. The detective wonders if the Harris family knew - - and when they knew it.

David had won a scholarship and was to go off to school - could he be saddled with a wife and child? His father (Bernard Miles) is very protective of him, and his sister (Yvonne Mitchell) is somewhat abrasive.

This is the story of underlying prejudice and assumptions about black people that were pervasive at the time, particularly when this film was made. Notting Hill race riots took place in 1958. These prejudices are expressed by the inspector on the case (Michael Craig), especially the myths of black sexuality.

Dearden liked to tackle these tough subjects, which he does very well, showing it as an underlying constant. Landladies have "white" houses, black friends dropped by Sapphire when she found out she could pass seem to understand her dropping them.

The scene at the Tulips Club is the best in the film, with pulsating bongos and wild dancing. The camera veers all over the room, showing twirling skirts, legs, black people dancing with women who appear to be white. There a man tells the superintendent no matter how white a woman is, you can tell she is actually black because she can't resist the sound of the bongos.

Very strong acting throughout, particularly by stage actress Yvonne Mitchell. One thing that shows that Dearden knew what he was doing -- people's reaction to death. When the woman in the park discovers the body, she doesn't scream. And when David learns of the death of Sapphire, he seems shell-shocked and numb. Sapphire's brother seems very calm, finally breaking down and asking, "How could anyone do this?" All very realistic, all not over the top.

A must see - it is available on Netflix and on Amazon instant video.
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7/10
One of the best British race films in existence
Leofwine_draca8 October 2016
At first glance, SAPPHIRE seems to be your usual police procedural murder mystery thriller, with the superintendent and his supporting inspector (both played with bullish charm by Nigel Patrick and Michael Craig) investigating the discovery of a murdered girl in the local park. Indeed, their investigations initially take them down the usual alleyways as they explore the girl's social group, her relationship with a local lad, and some less-than-salubrious locations she was involved with.

However, where SAPPHIRE becomes something much, much more is in its context: race relations in Britain, circa 1959. It turns out that Sapphire herself was actually of mixed race, despite looking white. The discovery of her racial origins underpins the whole story and it's up to Patrick and Craig to unpin the build up to her brutal death. This is a shocking film, exploring the ugly face of racism in its matter-of-fact hatred of blacks and their creed. There's something grippingly realistic about it which makes it all the better film.

The supporting cast is very well picked. Nobody does shifty better than Paul Massie, the primary murder suspect. Earl Cameron is the model of race and refinement as the dead girl's brother. Yvonne Mitchell is superbly twitchy and Bernard Miles convincingly bigoted. Robert Adams supplies the one moment of true humour with his great cameo as Horace Big Cigar. As a film, SAPPHIRE is never less than thoroughly impressive, working well as a piece of social history as well as a fine detective story.
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7/10
He didn't look black to her back then
kapelusznik187 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
****SPOILERS*** Murder in 1950's London England that turned out to have deep racial overtones in who the victim was. Found with her throat slit in a deserted park the lily white looking Miss. Sapphire Robbins, Yvonne Buckingham, is soon to be discovered to be black in her Negro bother Dr. Robbins,Earl Cameron, showing up at the police station to identify her. This throws the whole case into limbo in that it was very probably her being discovered to be black not white that lead to her murder! It's Sapphire's white boyfriend David Harris, Paul Massie, who becomes the #1 suspect in her murder who was planning to marry her which at the same time could disqualify him from his hard earned scholarship to attend Oxford. That for not only being married by marrying someone outside his own race!

As police superintendent Robert Hazard, Nigel Patrick, and his sidekick inspector Phil Learoyd,Michael Craig, check out where Sapphire spent the last few hours of her life they soon realize that those of the black community in the night and dance clubs that she spent her time in knew that she was black or one of them! And her about to marry a white man, David Harris, is what may have triggered a black boyfriend of her to murder Sapphire in a jealous and violent fit. As for the devastated David Harris he seemed to know the reason why Sapphire was murdered and even more important who murdered her! But in is keeping his mouth shut he may very well ends up paying with his life, by being arrested convicted and hanged, for it!

****SPOILERS**** Down to earth and not so self conscious and apologetic of race issues, like later likewise movies about race, "Sapphire" sticks more to finding Sapphire's killer then trying to make a politically correct case out of it. There are a number of black suspects, who were anything but boy scouts or altar boys, also involved in Sappire's murder who for the most part were shown to have deep seeded racial prejudices as well. Not only against whites like David Harris and the white police but against Sapphire herself. For the "crime" of passing herself off as white and planning to marry a white man making the reason, in racial terms, for her murder cut both ways! The film didn't have the usual cop-out ending that you would have expected in Sapphire's killer being both close to home and at the same time it wasn't race that was the main reason for murdering her. But mostly for status in the community and economic freedom & security instead!
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Needs Re-Discovery
dougdoepke8 January 2018
So who killed Sapphire. That's the movie's plot; however, the underlying theme is racial prejudice, a generally touchy topic at the time, even for British films. As I recall, the movie got more coverage than usual for a foreign release, at least in the LA area. The lovely Sapphire may look White, but genetically she's half-Black. Her troubles start when she "passes for White" in a London society still riven by prejudice. Engaged to the son of a reputable White family, her racial make-up causes rifts within the circle once her heritage is known. Naturally, the suspects start off with the family of her intended.

The twin threads of race and murder are skillfully woven into a difficult screenplay that nevertheless compels attention from start to finish. Credit a highly efficient performance from Nigel Patrick for holding together the disparate elements as his chief investigator works his way through London's many precincts. I like the way the screenplay portrays levels of racial dislike from both Whites and Blacks without getting too judgmental. Also, it looks like the exteriors were shot on location without any prettifying. Some of the neighborhoods in fact amount to about the last word in urban decay. Happily, director Deardon keeps things moving in unobtrusive fashion right down to the rather surprising finish. Anyway, the 90-some minutes amount to a topically compelling package that deserved its initial hoopla and still does.
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10/10
Crime drama with racism as a central theme
kijii4 November 2016
Sapphire is a British crime drama that I found while looking for "Kitchen Sink films." Though I saw this on Amazon Prime, it had been restored for Criterion (where the commentary track might be interesting). The movie is a good crime drama, but racism is the central issue here. Without the racial element, there would be no story plot or subplot.

The story begins when Sapphire's body is found in a park and reported to the police. As we follow London police detectives, uncovering the facts behind who the woman is and why she was killed and moved to the park, we see a myriad of action and reaction shots showing us the way people respond to her and her death since she was a black girl "passing for white." In fact, the variety of ways people—from both black and white communities--respond is almost a study in itself.

The idea of a black person "passing for white" was not new since we had seen that in the movie, Pinky (1949), and read about it in Kingsblood Royal, by Sinclair Lewis. But, there are also other elements at work in this movie. How and when did she "pass for white"? How did that change the way she lived and who her friends were? When did the young white man who planned to marry her discover that she was black? When did his family discover this and what was their reaction?

This film may seem dated (even humorously campy* now), but to appreciate it, you need to think what the world was like in 1959--both in the UK and the US. This must have seemed revolutionary at a time when desegregation was illegal (in many places) and racial stereotypes were still current in our cultures. In that way, this movie is sort of a time capsule of its time. ________________

*Notice when Sapphire's brother shows up at the police station for the first time.

Listen to the jazzy film music at that point--It sounds like the punctuation mark to a Batman cartoon.

Also notice how the film refers to her "blackness coming out" whenever she danced or listened to music (with that bongo beat)!!?? What about that sexy underwear that attracts black girls? If she dresses "white" but wears lacy red underwear, does that make her outer dress "white" and her underwear " black": Is she "black" under the dress (as suggested by the assistant policeman in the movie)?
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7/10
Sapphire A Film by Basil Dearden
annuskavdpol10 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This film is one of the best films I have seen in 2013. It is a film made in 1959 - but I think the subject-matter is timeless. I believe that the film really explains a deep meaning about how society works. Here hierarchy and social injustices seem to go hand in hand like a tea cup and a tea pot. I wish that society was kinder to human beings. I wish that the world had more empathy and understanding and at the same time I love the lead characters take on humanity in the movie. He seemed to have compassion for both the victim and the perpetrators. Is this quality what makes humanity hopeful out of all the gloom. It is the lead characters resilience and ethics that makes humanity worth believing in. Nigel Patrick as the detective in charge of the investigation is such a nice man that he does transcend the bitterness within the world he lives and works in. This is his existentialism. And perhaps that is really what the movie is about - a pure form of existentialism. The fact that standing up and holding ones beliefs - no matter what the cause and no matter what the outcome. This is the most courageous part of humanity.

I love how the movie ends, here is part of the dialogue: X: "cases don't get solved without someone getting hurt -" X: "you know that."

Y: "We didn't solve anything Phil. We just picked up the pieces."

Written by Annuska van der Pol Canada
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Looking for this movie.
caribqueen587 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this movie when I was a young girl with my mother, as I did Imitation of Life, and Pinky. I have always loved this movie and have tried to find it. if anyone has information please let me know. One of the lines that stuck in my mind as a child is the part when the boy's father I believe (I'm 53 now), was looking for answers and was giving this advice, (paraphrased), Come back later and you'll find her hear, you can always tell the lilypads...put a dime in the jukebox and watch their feet..if it starts moving, then you know she's passing. I never forgot that moment in the film. He was describing the black women who would come to the club and try to pick up men or pass, or just have a good time, but gave themselves away when they heard a beat. In other words Black folks always had to move when they heard a beat. I never looked at it as racist but my mother would fuss at the TV and I knew he'd said something wrong. Please help me find this wonderful masterpiece.
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7/10
Flawed Gem
writers_reign2 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
My summary does double duty as a description of the eponymous character, a very light-skinned West Indian girl 'passing' for white and the film itself, a low-key exploration of racial tension in pre-Swinging Sixties England. In terms of police-based drama we were still in the era of Dixin Of Dock Green with the more realistic Z Cars and The Sweeney still to come so that Nigel Patrick's Inspector comes across as a gentleman detecting as something of a hobby, an exact counterpart, in fact, of Raffles, the gentleman crook. The teenagers are unbelievably polite, dress conventionally and are unable to field a single tattoo, piercing, stud or pin in a college full whilst the prejudice is recorded mutely rather than trumpeted. Despite the odd and obligatory red herrings the real killer is not difficult to spot and the motive is all too plausible. Patrick takes the acting honours as one would expect with Michael Craig contributing his usual hundredweight of balsa wood but all in all it is both interesting and satisfying.
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7/10
A black and white movie
Prismark105 January 2018
What should had been a routine murder mystery set in late 1950s London takes a more heated dimension under the hands of director Basil Dearden who introduces for the time the subject of race relations. London had race riots the year before this film was released.

The film opens with the body of a white woman being found, Sapphire. Detectives Robert Hazard (Nigel Patrick) and Phil Learoyd (Michael Craig) investigate the case. They then meet her brother who has come down from Birmingham, Dr Robbins (Earl Cameron) who is black. Hazard assumes Sapphire was his half sister. Dr Robbins tells him that one parent was white the other black. Sapphire was pale enough to pass as white, he came out as more darker. When Learoyd sees him we can tell he does not like black people.

Sapphire's boyfriend David Harris (Paul Massie) becomes a suspect, until just before her death he and his family did not know she was coloured and it turns out she was also pregnant.

The film does not pull many punches regarding pervading prejudice of the time. Basil Dearden made a name for tackling difficult subjects, he would later make the film, 'Vicitm' that dealt with homosexuality. It is also an effective thriller although you do pick up enough clues to figure out who the killer is.
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As good as everybody said
lucyrfisher17 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This film really is as good as everybody says. Nigel Patrick makes an excellent principled investigator. His younger sidekick is the one who casually lets fall a succession of racist myths. A girl is found stabbed on Hampstead Heath - it turns out she is a music student with a serious, striving boyfriend. But the cops are surprised by the red taffeta petticoat she wears under her sober "tweed" skirt. (It's a brown, with sunray pleats.) When her brother turns up, they discover that she is "coloured", and has been passing for white. Much of the investigation focuses on the boyfriend's family, who are aspirant, respectable working class. His dad is a sign painter played by the great Bernard Miles. One of the film's many virtues is that we SEE him painting a sign, and see his workshop at the back of the house in a former stable block. The family stand together and assert that they accepted Sapphire, background, pregnancy and all.

Londoners love films set in our city decades ago. Oh, look, I remember those Victorian shops, those buses! There are many excellent bit players, including a couple of landladies – one who says "I run a WHITE house" while smiling crookedly. Another wears a Cairngorm brooch and says she would have thrown Sapphire out if she'd "known". The past wasn't all that cosy. Sapphire's brother says he'll stay at a certain hotel which will "take us".

The film is in colour, all the better to show off the garish underwear. There is a wonderful visit to Babette's lingerie shop in Shaftesbury Avenue. The detectives hold up a bright pink nylon negligee with some disgust.

Stereotypes fly - a girl may look white, but if she has black ancestry she can't resist the rhythm of the bongos. There are many black characters - more than in most TV dramas or films of today, and they all impress. One is a dandy with a bishop for a father. There are some dubious types hanging out in an empty house. A dimwitted suspect goes on the run through the mean streets and the film reaches another level. He's beaten up by some "teddy boys" and takes refuge in a newspaper shop run by a kindly (white) old couple.

It's about this point the watcher realises that this is no standard detective story. The acting is superlative, especially from the boyfriend's family - his worried mother, and fraught sister, whose husband is permanently "at sea".

Exteriors are drab because that's how they were. But interiors are carefully painted to look as dreary as possible - perhaps to show up snappy suits and orange lipstick. But were walls and furniture really painted in shades of brown or grey?

There's a lovely scene early on where Sapphire's student friends discuss her in Foscari's coffee bar. I wish we'd seen more of them.
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7/10
Murder of bi-racial girl causes racial tension in London of the 1950's
snicewanger27 June 2016
Quire controversial on it's release in 1959 because it dealt with subjects that few people were willing to admit existed let alone talk about at that time. Sapphire boasted a strong cast led by Nigel Patrick and Michael Craig, and directed by the prolific Basil Dearden. Harry Waxman's cinematography is very atmospheric and captures a drab,gritty London of quietly desperate people imprisoned by their prejudices and inability to adapt to changing times

Dearden created an almost documentary style murder mystery with characters that seemed more pitiful than likable and the conclusion leaves you feeling somewhat sad and depressed.

Fine performances by Bernard Miles, Earl Cameron, and Yvonne Mitchell add to the proceedings. Look for future stars Barbara Steele and Fenella Fielding in small roles.

Time hasn't less the effect that Sapphire has on the viewer. Its as relevant today as it was in 1959.
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My brief review of the film
sol-3 August 2005
A competently made police investigation mystery, with some racial ideas at hand, it nevertheless is too slowly paced for it to be totally enthralling, and there are often dry gaps between the good bits. However, even if it never possesses the power to fully encapsulate, this is definitely very watchable stuff. Some of the performances, or perhaps it is just their characters, tend to be a bit over-the-top, and a few of the music inserts are questionable. Still, it is okay viewing, and some of the racial ideas do come across quite well. It is good as it is, but perhaps a more intriguing mystery with more intricate characters could have improved the way the film gets across its messages.
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