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A Raisin in the Sun
A Raisin in the Sun
Actors: Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil, Ruby Dee, Diana Sands, Ivan Dixon
Director: Daniel Petrie
Genres: Classics, Drama, African American Cinema
UR     2000     2hr 8min

When a newly widowed matriarch receives a $10,000 life insurance check, she soon learns her family has their own ideas on how to best spend the money. Special features: subtitles in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean and...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil, Ruby Dee, Diana Sands, Ivan Dixon
Director: Daniel Petrie
Creators: Charles Lawton Jr., Paul Weatherwax, William A. Lyon, David Cogan, David Susskind, Philip Rose, Lorraine Hansberry
Genres: Classics, Drama, African American Cinema
Sub-Genres: Classics, Classics, African American Cinema
Studio: Sony Pictures
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color,Full Screen,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 02/22/2000
Original Release Date: 01/01/1961
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1961
Release Year: 2000
Run Time: 2hr 8min
Screens: Black and White,Color,Full Screen,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 19
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Georgian, Chinese, Thai
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Member Movie Reviews

DIANE M. (bookaholic) from PARADISE, PA
Reviewed on 1/26/2010...
This drama has been done several times over the years but none come close to this powerful and riveting original version. The excellent cast is a strong one headed by Claudia McNeil, Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee. If you haven't seen it, you are missing a great movie. A true classic!

Movie Reviews

A deeply affecting movie
K. Barnes | Austin,TX | 05/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Hollywood Citizen-News dubbed this "One of the most powerful films to grace the 1961 screen." I'd say that time has proven this to be one of the most powerful films to hit the screen in any year. The character Walter Lee is a man driven to the edge of insanity by the prospect of seeing his dream slip right through his fingers. A dream that he thinks is his only way up. Sidney Poitier, who is the finest, most natural actor I have ever seen, plays this part flawlessly. Ruby Dee, Diane Sands, and Claudia McNeil also strike stunning, emotional performances as the family members dealing with not only Walter Lee's downward spiral, but also with their own issues and inner turmoil.In keeping with its origins, the cinematography of the movie retains many aspects of a play, and is thus unlike modern movies that cater to the growing attention deficit of our society. However, the content and fine performances will capture your attention, regardless of what you are now used to seeing. The turmoil will be familiar to many people. The conflicts brought up here are classic social conditions experienced by many different types of people all around the world... whether it is due to skin color, religion, money or other class distinction. For this reason, I feel this movie will strike a cord with people from many different backgrounds.The quality of the DVD is superb. I noticed no degradation of the picture or sound quality. There are subtitle options for English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai.The movie's 1961 preview, which is one of the extras, begins with a "Message to Moviegoers" by the producer, David Susskind. I would like to quote his words, because they do ring absolutely true of this movie:
"Here is entertainment which is rare and unique... [W]hen you see this picture you will live it. After you leave the theatre, you will talk about it, and for a long time afterward you will remember A Raisin in the Sun."
[Submitted 5-6-03, edited 5-20-03]"
Subject matter still an issue today
The Fancy One | Westchester County, NY | 08/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The title of this film is taken from a line from a Langston Hughes poem called "A Dream Deferred":

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun
Or fester like a sore-

And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-

Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

"A Raisin In The Sun", an award-winning Broadway stage play brought to the screen, is a story about dreams. Everyone in this film has them, but the question is, do they ever come true? Do you have to put that dream on hold because of other circumstances beyond your control, until it consumes you to do something unthinkable? Or in order to reach that dream you want to come true so badly, you decide to take another route to get it? Or you just let it die, and you are forever regretting not taking the necessary steps to make that dreams a reality?

I first saw this on television umpteen years ago and in school, and I was touched by the whole plot. In the 1950s, an African-American family living in a Chicago tenement obtains a large amount of money from an insurance policy due to the death of the patriarch, and his widow (Claudia McNeil) decides to use a large portion of it as a down payment on a home in the suburbs, which is a thrill to everyone in the family, except her petulant son Walter Lee (Sidney Poitier). Walter Lee has dreams of his own, and wants the insurance money for another purpose.

Walter Lee's headstrong, witty and socially conscious younger sister, Beneatha (Diana Sands), is a college student who has dreams of going to medical school and becoming a doctor and in the meanwhile, trying desperately to identify with her African roots after meeting a Nigerian exchange student (Ivan Dixon). This is a major ingredient in the script, being that this was written shortly after the birth of the Civil Rights Movement, several years before the Black Panthers were formed and at least 15 years before the women's liberation movement. Will she ever get there? Meanwhile, Walter Lee and his mother continuously clash until his mother finally breaks down and gives him a portion of the money, but she is very careful about how she wants him to use it.

Meanwhile, the residents of the white suburban neighborhood where this family wants to move don't want them there. Later on, a decision must be made. Should they move to this beautiful new home where they aren't really wanted, or take the white neighbors up on their offer to buy the house back from them with a profit?

The entire cast, which is the original Broadway ensemble, is stellar, especially Claudia McNeil's amazing portrayal of the widowed Lena Younger, Walter Lee's mother. She is nothing short of phenomenal - she is a proud woman, a tower of strength in the face of tragedy and although she herself is suffering, she is able to put her own grief aside to comfort the other family members. This is clearly Sidney Poitier's finest role, right up there with playing Virgil Tibbs in 1967's "In The Heat of the Night". Exploding with intensity, he accurately nails down the frustrations and pain of a black man who wants for much more for himself and his family, and pins his hopes on an unyielding dream. Ruby Dee plays Ruth, Walter Lee's wife, a beautiful woman of quiet dignity who is struggling with conflicts of her own. Also appearing in his first movie role is future Oscar winner Louis Gossett, Jr. as George Murchison, an articulate and well-to-do college student.

This is still a relevant topic today, even though this film was made over 40 years ago because these things are still happening. Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright, was inspired to write this masterpiece by her own experience of moving to an all-white Chicago suburb as a child, and the very public genrification story of entertainer Nat King Cole, who faced the same kind of bigotry when he brought a house in a wealthy white neighborhood in California in 1948.

Wonderful family film. Highly recommended."
"I am a giant, and I'm surrounded by ants."
Mary Whipple | New England | 06/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"With perhaps the best cast ever assembled for this play, David Susskind's 1961 production of Raisin in the Sun is a classic film and a landmark achievement during the civil rights struggles of the early 1960s. Starring a young Sidney Poitier as Walter Lee, Claudia McNeil as his mother Lena Younger, Ruby Dee as his wife Ruth, and Diana Sands as his sister Beneatha, the film closely follows the script of the play, and director Daniel Petrie wisely confines the setting almost entirely to one room, as it is on stage. This intensifies the emotions and interactions of this three-generation family, which share a small, two-bedroom apartment in South Chicago, and makes their longing to break free obvious both visually and emotionally. Sidney Poitier as Walter Lee is the "giant...surrounded by ants" as he dreams of escaping his job as a chauffeur and investing in a liquor store. Poitier's body language and subtle gestures as he argues about how to spend his mother's ten thousand dollar life insurance check powerfully convey his anguish. The close-up of Poitier's slow transition from an insolent and angry young man to a tearful and repentant son in one scene with his mother is unforgettable. Claudia McNeil, as the mother, is stalwart, strong, and full of pride. Ruby Dee, as the devoted wife, trying to decide whether to have an abortion in order to lighten her husband's load, is simultaneously resolute and resigned. Diana Sands, as Beneatha, the agnostic medical student, reflecting the beginning of the "Roots" and "Black Power" movements, provides some comic relief as she practices African "home-from-the-hunt" dances.At the heart of the play is the issue of discrimination against black people and the limitations on their dreams, and the filming in black and white is appropriate. The small dying houseplant that Lena nurtures remains the major symbol here, as it is in the play, but through the cinematography new symbols emerge. The kitchen cupboard door opens and shuts as family members open and shut themselves to each other and the outside world, and numerous scenes take place between two people with a door in the background, opening and closing as their emotions change. The film quality and its high contrast have withstood the test of time, the sound is good, and the acting, especially as revealed in the close-ups, makes this a classic film, better than any stage version I have ever seen or imagined. Mary Whipple"