A Patch of Blue
Guy Green (Novel: Elizabeth Kata)
Sidney Poitier, Shelley Winters, Elizabeth Hartman, Wallace Ford, Ivan Dixon, Elisabeth Fraser, John Qualen, Kelly FLynn
Buy on DVD
Topping this week’s list of best features is the 1965 feature starring Elizabeth Hartman as a blind young woman trapped in a hate-filled life. Forced to string beads for her domineering mother played brilliantly by Shelley Winters as a way to bring in extra income for their small, rat hole apartment. When she convinces her employer to walk her out to the park one beautiful day, she becomes enchanted with the open sky which holds her only memory of color, a patch of blue.
While enjoying the peace and serenity of the park, a passerby befriends the innocent young waif and begins to care for her well being more than a normal stranger should. Sidney Poitier takes on the role of Gordon Ralfe, the compassionate black man whose race matters little to the blind girl, but affects those around her a great deal. It’s a lovely story built on two major points. The first is how those with sight often take advantage of those without, forgetting the simple joys vision can provide. The second is that being blind to color helps foster a sense of unity and acceptance. Yet, it’s the people with sight in the film, the hateful mother, the drunken grandfather, the concerned brother, who seem to be blind to the magical innocence unwavering friendship and the desire to succeed at all costs when what has been denied to you for so long becomes the only thing worth living for.
Hartman and Poitier are dynamic together. Hartman shows a bit too little training in her performance of Selina, but somehow her haphazard naivete helps give the character an add dimension. Poitier on the other hand does what he seems to do best: strong and stoic, conveying the confidence all great actors possess. Wallace Ford brings the drunken malfeasance of his doddering old codger to his performance sensationally. Yet, despite being surrounding by strong central and supporting performances, the most powerful presence of the film is Winters.
She has done a great many different types roles in her career, from lovelorn innocence to frightened arrogance and several layers in between. However, this may well be her greatest performance. She gives the audience every reason to despise her character, wish for her failure and yet create a humanity at the heart of it that suggests a woman who once had dreams, aspirations and potential, but squandered it out of fear, desperation and lack of support. She isn’t able to recognize those same positive qualities in her daughter and, perhaps because of her carelessness which caused Selina’s blindness, she doesn’t want to see the young girl make the same mistakes she did, but is unable to let her prejudices and insecurities keep her hand or her tongue as she abuses Selina as only a mother could know how, but shouldn’t.
And the last, but most effective element of the film is Jerry Goldsmith’s beautiful score which accentuates all the right moments and stays with you long after the final reel.
September 27, 2010