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Purlie (1981)

| Comedy, Musical, Family | TV Movie
In the early days of the civil rights movement, a Southern plantation owner holds his sharecroppers in virtual slavery. Purlie comes home as a preacher who will shake things up and bring freedom to his people.



(play), (play) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win. See more awards »




Credited cast:
... Purlie Victorious Judson
... Gitlow Judson
Rhetta Hughes ... Missy
... Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins
... Idella Landy
... Stonewall Jackson (Ol' Cap'n)
... Charlie Cotchipee
... Sister Hopkins
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Loretta Abbot
Brenda Braxton
Olivia Detante
Cisco Drayton
Tanya Gibson


In the early days of the civil rights movement, a Southern plantation owner holds his sharecroppers in virtual slavery. Purlie comes home as a preacher who will shake things up and bring freedom to his people.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Musical | Family





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Did You Know?


The original Broadway production of "Purlie" opened at the Broadway Theater in New York on March 15, 1970, ran for 688 performances and was nominated for the 1970 Tony Award for the Best Musical. Sherman Hemsley, Melba Moore {Winner of the 1970 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical) and Linda Hopkins recreated their stage roles in this filmed production. See more »


Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins: [Lutiebelle's just been assaulted by old man Cotchipee] He kissed me!
[points to her cheek]
Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins: Right here.
Missy: Right where?
Gitlow Judson: Oh, Missy, for Pete's sake!
Purlie Victorious Judson: He kissed my woman, Gitlow. He kissed the woman I love!
Gitlow Judson: So what?
Purlie Victorious Judson: So, what do you mean "so what?" Ain't no man kisses the woman I love and lives!
[Gitlow laughs uproariously at this]
Purlie Victorious Judson: That's right, you go ahead and laugh.
See more »


Version of Gone Are the Days! (1963) See more »


Skinnin' a Cat
Music by Gary Geld
Lyrics by Peter Udell
Sung by Sherman Hemsley
See more »

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User Reviews

My father was the Producer of this show.
4 March 2010 | by See all my reviews

My father, Robert R. Thiel, produced this show when I was--calculating--13! It was the last show he ever produced due to some trouble that, sadly, got him out of the business permanently. It was also his crowning achievement.

I believe this was his only production for television, though there may have been one more. I'll make sure to ask him.

Being a 13 year old on this set, with these famous stars, doing my best to embarrass the Producer--my dad--was a fantastic experience.

Melba Moore in person had the beauty and charm of Audrey Hepburn.


Originally the corporate folks wanted to do this on a closed set, like any television program or movie, but my father's love of the theatre and live/real audience reactions overpowered, and therefore the whole thing was shot in sequence with a live audience that was provided free tickets. If I remember correctly, there were three performances, and therefore three takes of each scene. They did not do more than one take of each scene per performance. During set changes, some celebrity would come out and keep the audience entertained--which worked quite well.

During one of these set change intermissions, an actor (Jose Ferrar I think) was standing in front of the asbestos curtain and joked that it was 'asbestos we could do' that day because of some problem with the front curtain.

The Lighting was all computerized and I believe it won and Emmy. The particular challenge was that since most of the actors were African-American, the lighting you would normally use with 'White' actors wouldn't have looked very good. This effected everything including the colors of the costumes and the set. I also seem to remember there was a fatal malfunction that required that the entire lighting sequence program to be dumped and reprogrammed at some point. It was tremendously complex, a real technical landmark.

The picture on the cover of the video was taken during a dress rehearsal. If you look not so carefully you can see their tights/leotards showing beneath the dancers' skirts.


As for DVDs, my younger brother, who was 8 at the time, just a couple of Christmases ago had the video converted to DVD as a gift for my father--which is not available in stores of course. Also, as you can imagine having produced such a thing yourself, my father still has boxes full of hundreds of the Playbills and--I have no doubt--cases upon cases of the video in his basement.

I'm sure he would absolutely gush if someone were to request one of the videos.

I'm also quite sure a huge pile of money, enough for him to retire with a smile, is owed him from the sale and showing of those videos but he hasn't been up to fighting that battle. Bottom line is, he never saw a cent of it.

I leave it up to you fans to make it your business to pursue the re-release of the video on DVD if you are so inclined and passionate about it, which would bring my father tremendous joy in his old age if nothing else.

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