A Raisin in the Sun (1961) Movie Review

By: Alex Phuong (A Toast) –

Langston Hughes wrote one of the most famous poems in the African-American literary canon. His poem entitled “Harlem (What Happens To A Dream Deferred?)” remains a landmark in American literature. Within the actual poem, the line, “A raisin in the sun” inspired Lorraine Hansberry to write an equally impactful stage play that is thematically similar to Langston Hughes’s poem. Hansberry even wrote the screenplay for the play’s film adaptation, and the final film remains one of the most important films based on a dramatic work.

A Toast

Sidney Poitier and Claudia McNeil received Golden Globe nominations for characters that they played both on Broadway and in this film version of Hansberry’s seminal play. The emotional force that these two performers give to their characters is actually very similar to the performances of Viola Davis and Denzel Washington in Fences (2016). It is also a bit of a shame that Poitier and McNeil failed to receive Academy Award nominations simply because their performances were so powerful. Besides the performances, Hansberry’s screenplay essentially honors her own creation while making the film version appeal to mainstream audiences. Even with some minor differences, the film still conveys the themes of the play very nicely, and the film itself remains a classic.

Verdict

Lorraine Hansberry might have died at a relatively young age at 34 in 1965, but she still gave the world one of the greatest plays ever written. Students continue to study A Raisin in the Sun in academic settings, and the play continues to remind audiences about the impossibility of idealism. The play itself is somewhat similar to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman because both plays reveal how the “American Dream” really is just too perfect to be real. It appears as if famous works in American literature oftentimes do their best to dispel that dream as a myth. Nevertheless, sometimes miracles do happen, and not all dreams have to necessarily shrivel up like “a raisin in the sun” (pun intended).

A Raisin in the Sun (1961) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time Sidney Poitier experiences tense moments as his character, Walter Lee Younger

Take a Drink: every time Mama expresses pride for her family

Take a Drink: when any of the characters talk about money (especially the $10,000 check)

Drink a Shot: during every mentioning of “assimilation” (which directly relates to the radical movements of the 1960s that happened around the time of this film’s release in 1961)

About Alex Phuong

One comment

  1. Being only familiar with Sidney Poitier’s work in “To Sir, with Love” (1967) and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” (also 1967), I am grateful to Alex for making me aware (via his review) of this film. I’m especially grateful to learn that the inspiration for the title (and theme?) of this film was a line from a poem by Langston Hughes titled, “Harlem (What Happens to a Dream Deferred?)”, which I intend to read before viewing the film. As with other reviews by Alex, he shares just enough to inspire one to watch the film (and enter into dialogue once watched). Thank you.

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