Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


ANNA LUCASTA (1959). Director: Arnold Laven. Screenplay by Philip Yordan from his play.

"Don't you want to see me respectable?"

"You'd only be cheapening yourself."

Caught by her father necking with a boy in the park, Anna (Eartha Kitt) is thrown out onto the street by her father, (who seems scared of her sexuality perhaps due to incestuous feelings on his part) and has to do what she can to survive. But when an opportunity comes up to marry Anna off to the well-off son, Rudolph (Henry Scott) of an old friend, the father, Joe (Rex Ingram), goes to bring her back home. When it looks as if Anna will have a new life with a very understanding Rudolph, Joe sets out to make sure her happiness is destroyed. This is a powerful family drama that happens to be about a black family. Eartha Kitt gives an outstanding performance as Anna, and the rest of the cast is splendid. Scott offers a sensitive and appealing portrayal of a decent, kind man who can overlook anything out of love. Anna's mother Theresa (Georgia Burke) says "Women play dumb. Men are born that way." Frederick O'Neal, James Edwards, Rosetta LeNoire, Isabel Cooley, Alvin Childress, and especially Claire Leyba as the old lady who only wants a drink, Blanche, are all notable.

And then we come to Sammy Davis Jr, who plays one of Anna's boyfriends, Danny. As much as I admire Davis, I have to say he isn't very good in the movie. His acting is too broad and almost amateurish. The scene when Anna runs off with Danny goes on much too long, and even has inappropriate sequences of Davis tripping the light fantastic. And this is what we get instead of a strong dramatic climax that the movie has been building toward but never quite arrives at. Otherwise, this is a very absorbing drama with an effective cast.

Verdict: Nearly derailed by Davis but still worthwhile. ***.

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