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The Learning Tree (1969)

The story, set in Kansas during the 1920s, covers less than a year in the life of a black teenager, and documents the veritable deluge of events which force him into sudden manhood. The ... See full summary »

Director:

Gordon Parks

Writers:

Gordon Parks (novel), Gordon Parks (screenplay)
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2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kyle Johnson Kyle Johnson ... Newt
Alex Clarke Alex Clarke ... Marcus
Estelle Evans ... Sarah
Dana Elcar ... Kirky
Mira Waters Mira Waters ... Arcella
Joel Fluellen Joel Fluellen ... Uncle Rob
Malcolm Atterbury ... Silas Newhall
Richard Ward ... Booker Savage
Russell Thorson ... Judge Cavanaugh
Peggy Rea ... Miss McClintock
Carol Lamond Carol Lamond ... Big Mabel
Kevin Hagen ... Doc Tim Cravens
Jimmy Rushing Jimmy Rushing ... Chappie Logan (as James Rushing)
Dub Taylor ... Spikey
Felix Nelson Felix Nelson ... Jack Winger
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Storyline

The story, set in Kansas during the 1920s, covers less than a year in the life of a black teenager, and documents the veritable deluge of events which force him into sudden manhood. The family relationships and enmities, the fears, frustrations and ambitions of the black teenager in small-town America are explored with a strong statement about human values. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

By the time he was 14, the boy had learned what life was all about...Betrayal, Shame, Murder See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

M | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 March 1970 (Finland) See more »

Also Known As:

Com o Terror na Alma See more »

Filming Locations:

Fort Scott, Kansas, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Winger See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The first major studio feature film directed by an African-American (Gordon Parks). See more »

Connections

Referenced in Sweet Trash (1970) See more »

Soundtracks

The Learning Tree
Words and Music by Gordon Parks
Sung by O.C. Smith
See more »

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User Reviews

Beautifully photographed, but awkwardly scripted
21 July 2001 | by Tony-41See all my reviews

The Learning Tree is one of those milestone films that one wishes were much better than it is. Parks' genius for the image comes through time and again, particularly in the opening sequence of the tornado and the horseback riders silhouetted by the sun. The milieu--rural Kansas in the 1920s--is unusual for a film focusing on racial conflict in the U.S., and that alone makes for an interesting film concept. But Parks' lack of film directorial and writing experience mars what could have been a major production. The dialogue in particular is often stilted and forced; too often the characters read their lines as though they're afraid they'll forget something. As a result, there's little real warmth or connection between characters. The other big problem here seems to be flow; each brief episode seems encapsulated, with new characters popping up left and right and then disappearing and reappearing without much development. Case in point: the series of episodes after the arrest. Who exactly are all of these new characters? What is the relationship between the white and black families, and between individuals in both groups? They come, they go, they reappear, but we're lucky to have caught their names. All in all, a much stronger film would have resulted from a collaboration of different screenwriter, director, and cinematographer, rather than having Parks run the whole show. If any film deserves a remake, it's The Learning Tree.


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