Cyd Rickett Sumner’s exploration of miscegenation in the prejudiced South was at the crux of his explosive novel, Pinky (1949). In translating the book to screen, writers Philip Dunne and Dudley Nichols lost very little of the potency achieved in Sumner’s tale. Under director, Elia Kazan’s masterful direction, Darryl F. Zanuck’s personal production emerges as a thoughtful, critical and often shocking depiction of a young woman’s desperate attempt to escape her own race.
Patricia Johnson – ‘Pinky’ for short (Jeanne Crain in a role campaigned hard for by Lena Horne), has just returned home after graduating from a nursing program in the North. There, she has fallen in love with Dr. Thomas Adams (William Lundigan) a prominent physician from an upstanding family. All seems right and good – except that Pinky has been concealing her true identity. Born to a black mother and raised by her black grandmother (Ethel Waters), no one suspects that Pinky herself is a black woman.
Determined to escape her heritage, Pinky shuns an invitation from Dr. Canady (Kenny Washington) to induct and help train his African American students. At the behest of her grandmother, Pinky reluctantly takes on the responsibilities of caring for an ailing white woman, Mrs. Em (Ethel Barrymore). For Pinky the assignment is akin to the menial and degrading servitude her grandmother has had to endure. Resenting her charge, Pinky does eventually develop a friendship with Mrs. Em that is based on mutual trust and understanding.
As repayment for her kindness she inherits Mrs. Em’s estate – a good fortune that comes with repercussions. Although Mrs. Em’s belligerent and racially motivated family contest the will, they lose their case only after Pinky decides that the land she has been given is worth fighting for. Assuming the tasks of a laundress, Pinky earns the right to be whatever she chooses – but only if she continues to pretend to be white.
Fox Home Video’s DVD is abysmal and disappointing – with an excessively grainy and rather rough looking B&W image. The gray scale fluctuates from passable to much too darkly contrasted with very dirty whites. Occasionally the image appears softly focused and/or blurry. Edge enhancement is also a problem in several scenes. The audio is presented in both mono and re-channeled stereo. An audio commentary by Kenneth Geist is the one notable extra – very informative and engaging. *IMPORTANT NOTICE: This title NOT available in Canada.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)