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rst epic to feature positive Afro-American images for a change
nuport17 September 2002
This well crafted film stands as an " American classic" in every sense of the word .We have the images of an Afro American family long before Cosby made it fashionable.And this film has the details which make it grittily realistic and believable .Oh! how I love those genuine NYC locations .Though made not so long after the civil rights era peaked, it dose'nt seem dated at all.The cast remarkable ,one must ask what became of these kids.The direction flawless ,James Earl is such a mighty presence in films and here he is young and strong.Watch him fight against the racist system .No doubt this is a movie for everyone no matter the race ,and what is color any way ?? I had seen this a few times but only recently obtained the videotape through sources that I found in the area .We really need more movies like this ,genuine wit , intelligent ,and touching emotions ,maybe our society would be a little better place.
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This is a wonderful movie on struggle and family bonds
Tamikalovesu223 May 2004
I have seen this movie since I was a little girl, and being from New York and remembering how people lived back then brought back a lot of good memories. This movie is not just about wanting a fairy tale ending but understanding the struggles of becoming a better person, woman, and provider Claudine attempted to be. It was about the welfare system putting women in a binding situation. It was about the injustice of a system that invaded and put demands on a family to stay afloat. Diane Carroll was nominated for an Oscar for this role, and it was well deserved. If you want to experience a strong family with conflicting but wonderful bonding moments, enjoy Claudine. Your goal as a viewer is to keep an open mind, and understand the overall frustration.
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'Claudine' is warm and inviting
D.S.19 February 2000
I first saw the 1974 film "Claudine" on Showtime in 1996. It's a warm film that is easily embracable, thanks to the humane way in which the characters -- and their misfortunes -- are dealt.

Diahann Carroll, in the title role, plays a single mother raising -- oh, four or five or six -- kids while working as a maid for a wealthy, affluent family.

James Earl Jones, as a garbage man, is smitten with Claudine. However, he has problems of his own, and the idea of committing to Claudine has him running scared.

The characters have pride and love, and, even though this isn't original, I found "Claudine" to be quite inviting. The performances (especially from Carroll, who won a well-deserved best-actress Oscar nomination for a role that had originally been cast with Diana Sands, who had to drop out due to a bout with cancer that would eventually kill her in September 1973) seem flawless, because the actors have a firm grasp and understanding of where "Claudine" is at, in terms of heart, mind, and soul.

And "Claudine" has plenty of those three to spare. It's well-worth checking out, if you haven't already done so.
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iama8 October 1998
The great film of an early urban afro-american family struggling through hard time and racism, this is an emaculate film. I am in love with this particular classic film because it shows reality, its emotion, its funny, and its a urban fairytale. I read the review by Brian Koller and basically he's saying that the film left him confused and without a plot. Well! I think that what he seemed to have missed was the fact that they did indeed get married, yes! the police did take Charles (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) to jail and the family went with him in the wagon to jail right after the wedding. To me that meant that the family was sticking together, no matter what the problem or finances were. Also I love the sound track performed by Gladys Knight and the Pips, titled "On and On". I would love to purchase this film, every time it comes on TV, I miss it. This film is truly a classic and should be in every afro-americans home. I wish somebody had some information for me about purchasing this film......Iama
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This is a must see movie by all regardless of race.
scottmercedes6 February 2002
Claudine is a movie that is representation of the american system at it's worst. The welfare system was initially set up as a stepping stone for those families who needed that extra hand to get back on their feet.The movie showed an accurate portrayal of how the welfare system breaks down the family unit. In other words if the father or any male figure is in the lives of the women and children their financial support from the system would be jeopardized if not terminated. The struggles of the poor can be seen throughout the world. I would like to see a reproduction of this movie back in the stores for all to rent or buy for their library collection.
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Gets better with time, just like fine wine.
BigBrothaX12 August 2002
Claudine was one of the very first movies that gave positive role models for both Black men and women. I appreciated this movie even more as I got older. This movie shows that men didn't always turn away from responsibility. An excellent movie I'd always recommend for anyone who appreciates a good inner city love story.
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Old but you can dig it.....
pc954 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Caught this recently after noticing James Earl Jones name on the title. It was better than I expected. Of course it's pretty old - made during the early/mid 70's but it actually is a decent drama. It runs a quick 90min or so and showcases good performances from James Earl Jones and Diahann Caroll. The plot is conventional in general but told through the perspective of a single black woman on welfare who has 6 children and trying to deal with all the problems that persist. This makes for an interesting view.....also in the fact that the script wasn't too sentimental or overdramatized - it's almost like looking at a slice of the past. All the 70's styles are out in abundance. The ending is kind of kooky though....probably would've done better without the theatrics.
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Soft hearted, honest dramedy bears the soul and plight of quite a few african americans of the era.
dirtygold0017 June 2003
If this film is examined closely, it's a bit sad. It is detailed enough to touch upon very real problems children, who grow up in poor, dysfunctional environments. Yet, it retains it's comedic value, with spirited performances by Diahann Carroll and James Earl Jones. The sadness lies in the struggles and dysfunction of the mother (Carroll), who cannot truly help her children, not because she doesn't want to, or try, but because, it's obvious she doesn't know how. Remember, this is a comedy, but if you've never seen this, or if you have, watch this film and see the humanity, in the characters. Good film.
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Kecia11 May 2002
I LOVE this of my all-time favorites!!! This was the first big screen movie my mom took me to see when I was 9. I highly recommend it to every african-american. This story is about love, trust, challenges, and everyday life of a black family. All the actors worked well together. I wish it was on video, but as of yet, it is not available that I know of. I caught it on television a few years ago, and recorded it, so whenever I get the urge to watch it...I have it! The soundtrack is awesome too! A must-see!
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if you're into the 70's black urban culture, CLAUDINE'S for you!
kirvin-110 June 2002
Claudine is one of those movies that you don't want to end and when it does you make up additional scenes in your mind! This movie is about a woman with 6 kids "living" on welfare in the bronx. she has a gig on the side as a domestic worker. she hooks up with a garbage man, named rupe and they hit it off, the kids however ain't trying to hear it. the story evolves around rupe trying to bond with the kids, claudine trying to battle with the welfare system and curtis mayfield's sound track punctuates the mood of the movie. gladys knight and the pips' vocals are tops! this movie has a "good times","coolie high","monky hustle" type of vibe to it. please see it. do it for me.
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It makes some excellent points as well as misses a few--but the acting is first-rate.
MartinHafer17 December 2013
"Claudine" is a unique insight into the life of the average poor urban black family of the early 1970s. And, it has some exceptional acting. So, despite some flaws (which I'll talk about in a bit), the film is well worth your time.

Claudine (Diahann Carroll) is a mother on welfare who works on the sly in order to support her six kids. She works very hard at low-paying jobs and has little time for anything other than her kids and work. However, when she meets a vivacious garbage collector, Roop (James Earl Jones), she is swept off her feet and they immediately start sleeping together (if guns have a three day waiting period, shouldn't there be a similar system for sex?). Soon, however, it goes from casual sex and good times to something serious--and that's when troubles begin. It seems that the welfare system is designed to prevent women from having families--and destroying marriage. What's to become of this couple and the six kids? See the film and find out for yourself.

The acting is the best thing about this film. In addition to Carroll and Jones' great acting, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs has a very auspicious film debut as Claudine's angry and mixed-up oldest son. The film also has a lot of great insights into the stupidity of the welfare system and what it was like to grown up at that time. However, and I know some folks will think I am a jerk for saying it, but I also couldn't help but feel that some of the problems were CLEARLY caused by the characters. Claudine has six kids she cannot take care of and then jumps into bed with Roop on their first date!! Morality aside, this is insane behavior and shows a nutty unwillingness to accept reality. Despite this dumb mixed message, the film, on balance, is well worth seeing.
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Well made, terrifically acted socially important comedy-drama
runamokprods8 November 2013
An important film in its day, it still holds up well. Claudine was one of the first mainstream American dramas to deal with the struggles of urban poor African-Americans without exploitation, violence or exaggeration on one side, or sugar coating or soft peddling on the other. It has sadness, anger and heartache, but also joy, love and humor. It has two smashing central performances by Diahann Carroll as the mother of six, trying to survive on welfare and an off the books job as a housekeeper, and James Earl Jones as a very charming garbage man who woos her despite the risk their getting together could cut her welfare payments.

Carroll is a wonder. One of the most beautiful actresses of her era, here she manages to be believable as an over-worked, under loved mother in the ghetto. Equal parts pain, pride, vulnerability, smarts and strength she was one of the first African Americans to get an Oscar nomination in a drama. Jones does some of his best film work. Always a great of the American theater, in his early films Jones often came off as too theatrical, larger than life. But here is he subtle, sly, complicated, and very sexy. The young actors playing Carroll's six children are uniformly excellent, often a weak spot in a film like this.

There are problems; some plot turns are predictable, some moments feel a bit 'Hollywood', some of it feels awkwardly dated. But much of it is as relevant as ever, and not afraid to be upsetting and angry along with it's gentle comedy.

Two notes, while often marketed as a 'family' film, this deals with sex and nudity in an honest and realistic way, and it's language is salty and true. Also, sadly, the only available DVD is full screen – too bad since the film was quite nicely shot in its gritty way.
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Fine Tuned Piece of 20th Century-Fox Twentieth Century urban legend, rendered into a Exhilarating, Positive Film Experience for All!
redryan6414 October 2007
The 1970's saw a rise and fall of what we have come to know as "Blacksploitation" Films. The term is a reference to kind of broad catch-all, rather than a true Genre of Film. In short, any comedy, drama, adventure, western or urban cops & robbers shoot-em-up, that are so constructed and so cast as to appeal to the large Urban Black population of the Mid 20th Century. That indeed could embrace the widest type of films, as long as the had a slant toward the inner-city black population.

It appears that the idea of producing these films of particularly keen interest to Black Americans had its genesis with the Eastertime Release of 100 RIFLES (Marvin Schwartz Prod./20th Century-Fox, 1969). In it, former Syracuse University All-American Footballer and Several Times All-Pro Fullback for the Cleveland Browns, Jim Brown, had a Co-Starring Billing. Having appeared in a number of films already, as for example, RIO CONCHOS (1964),THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967), (ICE STTION ZEBRA (1968)* and others, it was beginning to make more sense to the Studios' "Suits" that Jim was a hot property.

Now this 100 RIFLES brings record numbers of Black patrons to the Big Cities' central business districts on Easter Sunday to view Mr. Brown. Why not start to film more of these adventure epics and other types of film with more Black Players and Stars? Why not, indeed.** So we saw a succession of Cops & Robbers, Bad-ass Private Detective Films, Comedies, all going the route. Along the way, we eventually got to some more family oriented, wider appealing films. The movie goers were treated to SOUNDER (1972), THE TAKE (1974), CONRACK (1974)and, ultimately, CLAUDINE (1974).

In CLAUDINE, we find no stigma nor easy classification as being "Blackploitation", as the story is universal, and could easily have been done as a story about people of any descent, any where, and not just in the 1970's USA.

That the story was done of a SINGLE mother, Claudine (Dianne Carroll), struggling to keep a family together after "....two marriages and two almost marriages.", is a far cry from a shoot-em-up Harlem Style. The problems that plague the everyday citizens of our nation are confronted and examined under the ol' sociological microscope.

But we also consider Claudine's psychological and physical needs as a female. For "Woman Needs Man and Man Must Have His MATE",***and we do concede this point. (That's S-E-X that we're talking about, Schultz!) Claudine meets up with a very masculine, broad shouldered, athletic type in Private Scavanger Garbage Man, Ruppert B. Marshall (James Earl Jones) and they go on a date.

The Great Welfare State intervenes with the Couple as Claudine's Welfare Case Worker, Miss Tayback (Elisa Loti), comes snooping around to see just who is this unattached Male, who is suddenly paying so much attention to Claudine's family.

After a humiliating experience with the Welfare Bureau's auditing and "deducting" binge, which would be the norm for the family, the two decide to get married with or without the blessing of Big Brother.

Meanwhile, Claudine's elder son has gotten involved with some big talking but little doing Black Activist group. But, with Ruppert's help, he and they all come through it A.O.K.

It ends on a Happy, Upbeat and Hopeful note. We know that it may not be exactly "...Happily Ever After!", but rather the'll make it all together! If there is a single criticism that we must state it is that sometimes in a movie like this, a misconception is spread to a large portion of Urban Blacks. And that is, the apparent implied myth that all Whites are wealthy, having none of their kind ever in need of a helping hand, out of work or suffering any disabilities.

Well, folks, it just ain't true! NOTE: * At one point, Jim Brown's career was a real hit as a rugged actioner. He was even being tauted as "...The Black John Wayne." NOTE: ** The idea of producing films with All-Black Casts, filmed for All-Black consumption was not a new idea. In the 1920's, '30's and '40's, we saw productions from people like Noble Johnson, Spencer Williams, Jr. and Rex Ingram.

NOTE: *** That's "As Time Goes By", you know, Schultz, it's from CASABLANCA (Warner Brothers, 1942).
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Exceptional and sadly forgotten
preppy-31 April 2010
Calaudine (Diahann Carroll) is 36, unmarried and has six children and is trying to raise them all on welfare. Garbage truck guy Roop (James Earl Jones) starts romancing her. Her kids don't trust him and she doesn't trust herself. This movie chronicles how she deals with her relationship with Roop and how to deal with her six kids--two who are teenagers and starting to fight back.

I've never even HEARD of this movie until FXM showed it one night. It seems to have disappeared and that's too bad. It's easily got to be one of the most honest and accurate portrayals about growing up poor and black in the city. I'm not black but I've read books on the subject and had some friends who lived like this and this movie hits the subjects right on. Also this is one of the few movies where the kids act and talk like kids--not like little adults. The language is strong (there's plenty of casual swearing and sex talk) but that's how people act and talk. Also this film doesn't shrink from Claudine and Roop having sex--it presents it in a matter of fact way. The script is OK but tries to cover all the bases of being poor and struggling with kids--that's WAY too much for one movie. Also it seems to pile one disaster after another on Claudine. It's gets to be overkill. I also didn't buy the happy shots during the closing credits. Still this is an exceptional movie that seems to have fallen between the cracks. The acting is great--Carroll and Jones are so young and full of life and energy. Carroll was nominated for an Oscar for this film. Also, among her kids, is Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs who went on the star in the TV series "Welcome Back Kotter".

I do have to point out that the language is STRONG in this one and it has flashes of nudity (female). It wouldn't get a PG today--it would get an R. Still it's just being honest and there's nothing wrong with that!
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A warm and loving movie
Schlockmeister27 October 2001
This movie was released right smack in the middle of the classic Blaxploitation era but is a definite departure from that genre.

It is a warm movie about a family sticking together through everything.

I saw this movie when it was first released and enjoyed it then, it was very nice to find it on TV so I could tape it and enjoy it over and over again.

The movie reminds me of the TV sitcom "Good Times", and fans of that TV show should enjoy this movie, it's just not as silly as the TV show could often be.

Recommended, and I would not steer you wong!
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It was great to see this movie in 1974
kimmishy527 July 2019
This was a great movie for black people. It showed two people struggling to survive in the big city. It was funny and real and about time!
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Til you been there
babyphone-2533528 July 2019
I may not be black. I may not be an African American, but I'm a brown woman living in this same world in 2019. Men are men when they stick around. Women are women when we do what we do to be strong for our kids. As a mother to a son, any son who stands up to the person to become the man of our house is a man! God bless this movie and all it stands for! Women who are this strong are rolemodles. And families who are this should be what America truly is!
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"Mr. Welfare, he's my husband"
smatysia26 February 2013
I thought, from the date, and the black cast, that this would be one of the "blaxploitation" films. Maybe some still consider it so, but to me those were horror and/or action flicks. This was a serious film, with themes, character development, drama, etc. Loved the music, by Curtis Mayfield and Gladys Knight and the Pips. I suspect that the filmmakers never really thought this would be seen by many white people, as many of its characters were very similar to the (seen today as racist) stereotypes that were widely held in those days. Even the characters themselves remarked upon this. And there was a lot of surprising candor in the portrayal of the destruction wreaked on the black family structure by the (fairly new, at that time) welfare system. Not bad at all.
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Awesome Film
babybrwneyez21 July 2014
I just watched this for the first time and absolutely love this movie. The movie shows a single mom trying to raise her 6 kids and having to deal with "Mr. Welfare" all up in her business. The soundtrack for the movie was just perfect. I will be going out today to see if I can find the movie and soundtrack. I loved the characters and how they made the movie about real life situations, its crazy because they still happen today. The plot was realistic ans easy to follow. Just perfect all across the board!!! I just wished I would have seen this movie sooner. But I'm glad that I was able to catch it when I did. A great movie to watch with your loved ones.
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A fantasy film
stevenfallonnyc20 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
How is "Claudine" a fantasy film? We'll get to that in a bit.

I remember seeing "Claudine" in the late 70's on cable TV, and just watched it for the first time since then. It's not bad, but it does indeed say a few things. It also challenges what many people consider "stereotypes" in today's politically-correct world, portraying these "stereotypes" as cold-hearted truisms.

Of course, things were not "PC" back in 1974 when this was made. Claudine is a black mother of six (count 'em, six) children, living in Harlem, surviving on welfare and her secret housekeeping job on the side. The six kids are all total brats - they do nothing but scream at each other, fight each other, and give their mother Claudine a hard time. Despite that she breaks her back for them, they show no respect towards her whatsoever.

They do act as a team, however, whenever the welfare social worker comes to the apartment to check on things (she's white of course), which they always manage to see her coming up the block - do they take turns as full-time lookouts? They then hide whatever "extras" they have, like a toaster, etc., to appear even more poor than they are so welfare doesn't deduct any money for the extra things.

Welfare is a villain in the film, and it's made clear many times. Claudine always complains she can't take care of her family - but she has six kids! And she's 36 years old! Even James Earl Jones's character, Roop, expresses shock when she reveals she's a 36-year old mother of six. (Claudine was pretty angry.) Now, it takes two to tango, but six kids at 36! Another "villain" of the film, is the black man as a father. It is made very clear that black men run out on their kids and families. In today's time, that is a popular "stereotype," and here, in the non-PC world of 1974, it is presented as fact. So what's the truth? Claudine's children even express severe skepticism at her new beau Roop, just waiting for him to eventually leave their mom, which of course, he does.

Claudine, incidentally, looks amazing. Diahann Carroll is a very beautiful woman, and in the film, as a mother of six, she is in amazing physical condition. That's part of the fantasy of the film. Have you ever seen a mom, at 36 who had six babies, look so amazing? The funny thing is, it's Darth Vader's body we keep seeing almost nude, not Claudine's. As they spend their first night together, Jones gets out of bed a lot, and the camera always shoots Jones in a clever way as we always see something blocking his "private parts" (although we are lucky enough to see his nude butt though). So if you want to see "sexy" James Earl Jones walk around nude, you got it! Diahann Carroll, well with her we're just not as fortunate. Roop, a garbage man with kids in other parts of the country, has been eying Claudine for a while before finally asking her on a date, then meeting her six wild kids.

One of the kids is the oldest, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, a very radical teenager who shows zero respect for his mom like the other kids. he does warn Roop that he'll pay if he makes his mother cry, which he does when Roop leaves her. Jacobs then tracks down Roop and beats the hell out of him, the only show in the film that Jacobs cares about his mom. We never get a scene that shows her reacting to his showing of caring, even if the caring was beating Roop up. Jacobs even disrupts and destroys their eventual wedding by running in the middle of it while being chased by the cops (he also obviously had better things to do, like go to a protest, than attend his mom's wedding).

Which leads to another fantasy of the film, how a black man, after it is established that black men always leave their fatherly responsibilities behind, marries a woman with six kids, none of which are his. Even forgetting about race, any man marrying a woman with six children who are not his children is something that you simply never hear of, and one of the things that turns this "real life drama" into a fairy tale.

The "white man" is another of the film's villains, even to Claudine, who says to Jacobs that "the white man tries to take away your manhood, but you go do it yourself" after he gets himself "fixed." Her oldest daughter gets pregnant, of course, by yet another uncaring black man. I was surprised that the one time we see Claudine's white couple she works for, that they weren't all nasty and mean white people. The husband was actually a very nice guy, and the wife wasn't bad, although she complained on the telephone that Claudine was late for work again. We also overhear the wife talking some "big business" on the phone, just to remind the audience how well-off all white people are, of course.

The ending of the film sees them all race away in the back of a police van (!), and then the film ends in perfect fairy-tale mode, with Claudine, Roop and the six kids all walking on the street, everyone all smiles, hand-in-hand, including Jacobs' rebel character! Jacobs is going to move out, the oldest daughter is going to move into a place with her boyfriend (turns out he cares about the baby they're going to have, but we never meet him on screen), and Roop will move into Claudine's apartment. Everything works out great, no wonder everyone is smiling and laughing as they walk in the street for the finale!

"Claudine" isn't really a bad film, but it is important to recognize all the fantasy elements that make it quite an unrealistic film.
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Comedy-drama about a welfare mother of six children who falls for a handsome garbage man and the two experience an up and down relationship.
carolscott56423 December 2007
I went to the movies to see Claudine and loved every minute of it the cast and the soundtrack as well. Diahann Carroll was never better than in this role. We saw Ms. Carroll downplayed her looks barely saw her naked,smoked a cigarette, drank beer and oh she cursed. Whenever this movie was shown on TV and finally cable I would call my friends to watch it. Just the soundtrack from the very beginning of the movie is awesome all thanks to Gladys Knight and the Pips. We saw a black woman struggling to raise her children, dealing with teen pregnancy and everyday life meets a man whom she learns later on has issues himself. Finally this movie made it to DVD and well deserving.
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Problem explained but not solved
esteban174727 February 2004
This is a film about Claudine (Diahann Carroll), a black lady (widow or abandoned by her husband(s) or lover(s)) who had six children and must have worked hard to sustain the whole family. Working as a maid in one house she was discovered by a strong black man (James Earl Jones) who worked as a garbageman and felt in love with her. A romantic relationship started between both, which was finally accepted by the Claudine's children. Their honey moon did not last for long because he did not want her to work anymore but money to sustain the whole family were not enough. Economical difficulties combined with some then racial limitations make their lives miserable. The end was a happy one but solutions to the problems were not really given. One may assume that the director John Berry just wanted to present clearly the situation of this couple, which could be the situation of too many in this society at that time and may be even now.
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Pleasant comedy/drama
Wizard-85 March 2012
Although I am a big fan of the action and horror movies coming from the blaxploitation film movement of the 1970s, I also have enjoyed the dramas as well, such as "Five On The Black Hand Side", "Sounder", and this movie. The biggest reason why I liked "Claudine" were the performances by the cast, especially James Earl Jones who gives his character a warm and appealing attribute for the most part (but also makes his character sympathetic to a degree when things turn darker in the last third.) The movie also well illustrates how many black people felt trapped in lower class lives during this period. Perhaps the ending, as some people have pointed out, is kind of wishful thinking, but I liked these characters and wanted the best for them.

One word of warning: While the description and the "PG" rating may make this movie sound family-friendly, the movie has enough nudity, adult situations, and harsh language that would get this movie at least a "PG- 13" rating today (maybe even an "R" rating.)
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A worthy catch
bkoganbing29 December 2019
Claudine is a wonderful film about a black mother with six kids trying to make it on public assistance and some off the books work as a domestic. While on her job she runs into sanitation worker James Earl Jones who is a free spirit of sorts and they go on a date. It's love but will the kids accept him?

One thing for certain that was not mentioned is the fact that Jones is a city worker with all the benefits including medical that brings. He's one worthy catch.

Diahann Carroll is in the title role which got her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. She hits all the right notes in her performance and she has great chemistry with James Earl Jones.

Claudine has quite a critique of the welfare system. Elisa Loti scores well in the role of Carroll's case worker. You really go through hoops for that assistance and seeing Loti go in to 'inspect' Carroll's dwelling criminals have more rights.

Also note Laurence Hilton-Jacobs in his role as Carroll's oldest. Quite a different character than we saw on Welcome Back Kotter back in the day.

Claudine as a film comes highly recommended by me.
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Groovy urban fairy tale is emotional, not logical...
moonspinner553 December 2006
After playing a smartly-dressed working mom on television for years, Diahann Carroll finally gets back to her dramatic roots and triumphs here as "Claudine", a single welfare mother in a houseful of unruly kids who begins seeing a well-meaning garbage collector (nicely played by a low-keyed James Earl Jones). Dated product of the 1970s has all the expected stereotypes, but director John Berry has fun with the convincing urban milieu and gets mileage out of Claudine's monetary predicaments, played for sarcastic laughs. The script brings up some all-too-realistic problems which it hasn't a hope in hell of solving, but the sharp, knowing, wise-ass dialogue lends a bracing quality to these characters--one respects them almost immediately. It's a fairy tale, a black variation on "Cinderella", yet the film is a bit overreaching, hoping to be both a lightweight romp and a diatribe on how we're all victims of the Man. Despite the hardships we presume are to come, the overall absence of malice--coupled with a cast full of brash, wonderful kooks--is ingratiating. **1/2 from ****
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