A Dream Deferred

A Raisin in the Sun is all about the American dream from the perspective of an African American family. Lorraine Hansberry became the youngest playwright and the first black woman to have a play performed on Broadway. A Raisin in the Sun had a predominantly black cast that was pretty unheard of at the time. The 1961 film maintains the entire Broadway cast including Sidney Poitier. Although this was the first majority black movie I’ve seen with Poitier, it was actually my brother who recommended it after seeing most of it in school. A Raisin in the Sun refers to a poem by Langston Hughes who asked “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”

The Younger family live in a cramped apartment in the Southside of Chicago, but they all have big dreams. Poitier plays the money obsessed father Walter Lee who wants a business of his own where he no longer has to serve anyone. A young Ruby Dee plays his longsuffering pregnant wife Ruth and Diana Sands plays his opinionated sister Beneatha who can’t decide what she wants to do with her life. Their young son Travis is played by newcomer Stephen Perry since the original actor was probably too old. Poitier was nominated for a Golden Globe and so was Claudia McNeil. I was especially impressed by McNeil who manages to hold the family together as the strong-willed matriarch Lena. The conflict of the movie comes when Lena receives a $10,000 insurance check from her late husband.

A Raisin in the Sun deals with all sorts of problems from a black perspective, but they’re just like any other family that wants more. Ivan Dixon is Beneatha’s African suitor Asagai who embraces their heritage and Louis Gossett Jr. is her wealthier suitor George who sees no problem in their community. This was actually the first film role for the future Oscar winner. Despite his pride and opposition, Walter embraces his mother’s decision to use the money for a house. Though the movie was directed by Daniel Petrie, the only white actor in the cast is the meek John Fiedler as Mark Lindner, a representative of their all-white neighborhood who asks them to reconsider. Walter’s final speech about finding a better life is a must watch for any race. A Raisin in the Sun has aged very well.

A Raisin in the Sun 1961

The Younger family

4 thoughts on “A Dream Deferred

  1. You know, I only ever caught the ending of this when John Fielder comes on, but for me the ending says everything you need to know about the characters ad the situations. It’s story we can all relate to in one form or another even if we all aren’t in the exact same spot as the Younger family. You can’t get much better than Sydney Poitier and Ruby Dee as the two leads. I had no idea Louis Gossett Jr. was in the film, that’s really cool. He starred in a play one of my College teacher’s wrote back in the 1980’s.

    Liked by 1 person

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