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Pinky (1949) is a film directed by Elia Kazan. It was adapted by Philip Dunne and Dudley Nichols from the novel by Cid Ricketts Sumner. Originally John Ford was hired to direct the film, but was replaced after one week because producer Darryl F. Zanuck was unhappy with the dailies. Although Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge were considered for the role, producer Darryl F. Zanuck chose to cast a white actress for box-office reasons. Released by Twentieth Century Fox, it starred Jeanne Crain, Ethel Barrymore (who was screenwriter Philip Dunne's godmother), Ethel Waters, and Nina Mae McKinney.

Plot introduction

Jeanne Crain and Ethel Waters
The film tells the story of a young woman of mixed African American and Caucasian heritage passing as white, who becomes torn between the needs of her grandmother and the love of a white doctor.

Critical reception

Because of its subject matter, Pinky was a controversial movie, and was even banned by the city of Marshall, Texasmarker, where W. L. Gelling managed the Paramount Theater, a segregated theater in which African-Americans sat in the balcony. Gelling booked Pinky for exhibition in February 1950. In 1950, the First Amendment did not protect movies (Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio). The City Commission of Marshall “reactivated” the Board of Censors, established by a 1921 ordinance, and designated five new members who demanded the submission of the picture for approval. The Board disapproved its showing, stating in writing its “unanimous opinion that the said film is prejudicial to the best interests of the citizens of the City of Marshall.” Gelling nonetheless exhibited the film and was charged with a misdemeanor. Three members of the Board of Censors testified that they objected to the picture because it depicts (1) a white man retaining his love for a woman after learning that she is a Negro, (2) a white man kissing and embracing a Negro woman, (3) two white ruffians assaulting Pinky after she has told them she is colored. Gelling was convicted and fined $200. He appealed the conviction all the way to the U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker. After Gelling filed his appeal, the Court decided the landmark free speech case of Joseph Burstyn, Inc v. Wilson that extended First Amendment protection to films. The Court then overturned Gelling’s conviction.

Pinky was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jeanne Crain), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Ethel Barrymore) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Ethel Waters).

A clip from Pinky is shown playing on a television in Curtis Hanson's film, 8 Mile, which delves into trans-racial boundary issues throughout.

See also


  1. DVD, Pinky, commentary track by Kenneth Geist.

External links

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