A Patch of Blue – The Classics Edition

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 1.55.08 PMA Patch of Blue is a heartfelt drama that will make you melt all the way to the end. Directed by Guy Green in 1965, the movie stars Sidney Poitier, Shelley Winters and Elizabeth Hartman. The screenplay was adapted from a novel titled Be Ready With Bells and Drums, which was published in 1961. Guy Green’s wife picked up the little book when they were getting out of the rain in England, and thought what a wonderful film it would make. Guy was already involved in a couple projects at the time, but was looking for the perfect script to work with on his own. Hence, A Patch of Blue was born.

Accidentally blinded by her dead-beat mother, sensitive teenager Selina D’Arcy (Elizabeth Hartman) begins to take solace in the park where she can string her beads and sit quietly in nature. One day she meets the kind Gordon Ralph (Sidney Poitier) who comes to her rescue when a caterpillar crawls down her back. After helping her, the two spend time talking about the tragedy that caused her to become blind. They form a lovely friendship and he continues to take her under his wing, and show her the ways of the world. However, Selina’s home life is a mess, as her mother Rose-Ann (Shelley Winters) is abusive and uncaring, and her grandfather (Wallace Ford) is an aloof alcoholic. Still, Gordon and Selina’s friendship blossoms, even though the controversy of his being black and her being a handicapped white teenager is an obstacle the two will have to face.

The movie itself had a hard time being made. Haley Mills was originally cast for the role of Selina, but her parents were hesitant of the subject matter and she eventually dropped out. Elizabeth Hartman had never done a film before; she was simply a no-named actress from Ohio. This was back in the day where an actor could show up at a studio for a personality and a screen test and be considered for a huge role a film if they liked you enough. As it was for Hartman, Mr. Green knew almost immediately when she walked into the room that she was the girl he was looking for. Poised, polite, and with apparent innate instincts much like professionals who had been in the business for years. To prepare for the role she attended a Braille institute and performed extensive domestic practices in the dark to experience what it would be like to not see the things you were doing. She proved to be not only a committed actress, but gave a stunning performance that was both complex and endearing. The role brought her numerous award nominations, and she took home the BAFTA Award for Best Actress of the Year. She completed a few other films after her debut, and after struggling for a long time with mental illness, tragically took her own life in 1987.

Guy Green’s first choice for the role of Gordon was Sidney Pitier, but the budget was limited and there wasn’t enough for his asking salary. So Sidney agreed to a pay cut but to also take 10% of the film’s profit. Which ended up being a smart move on his part as the film did extremely well (the best of Poitier’s career, in fact) and he ended up taking in about 10 times his film rate. His performance is heartfelt and genuine, much like most roles Sidney has played, yet A Patch of Blue seems to surpass all the others as showing his dynamic abilities as an actor. His movements, bold laugh, and tenderness carry this story of tolerance, and lead us all to believe in the importance of unconditional love.

Shelley Winters won the Academy Award for best supporting actress for the role of Rose-Ann. She had a hard time with the role, but eventually found her way and embraced the concept of being extremely disliked. While accepting the award she stated, “I didn’t really know what I was doing with this particular role, but the director did, so there you go.”

A Patch of Blue is a timeless story about two unlikely people coming together to fill a void in each other’s lives. Even in the midst of the civil rights movement in 1965, the story doesn’t over-embellish this fact and stays with the theme that love is blind. Also, the choice of Guy Green to keep the movie in black and white (even though color was available) further enhances the muteness of Selina’s world. In the last scene, Selina tells Gordon, “I know everything I need to know about you. You’re kind…and I think you’re beautiful.” Gordon replies, “Beautiful? Most people would say the opposite.” In which Selina promptly states, “That’s because they don’t know you.” It’s a must-see for any movie lover and will forever be at the top of my list as best films of all time.

 

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Jess

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