Raisin in the Sun A (1961)

Raisin in the Sun A (1961)

Lorraine Hansberry’s Broadway play received a Tony nomination as did lead actress Claudia McNeil. Hansberry wrote the screenplay for this Daniel Petrie directed movie version that stars Sidney Poitier opposite McNeil Ruby Dee and more. It’s an essential drama that also features Louis Gossett’s film debut; Roy Glenn is among those who also appear. The film was added to the National Film Registry in 2005.

Not since the late 1930’s in films like Stella Dallas (1937) and Of Human Hearts (1938) had a self-sacrificing mom been so well portrayed on screen until McNeil played strong and loving Mama Lena to Sidney Poitier’s struggling-to-find-himself Walter Lee Younger in this one. Dee plays Walter Lee’s supportive and ever working homemaker wife Ruth; Diana Sands plays Lena’s daughter Beneatha. Walter Lee is a dreaming "scheming for success" son who sees his mother’s life insurance money (from his father’s death) as an opportunity to shine and finally succeed whereas Lena values funding her daughter’s education and/or giving Ruth a well deserved rest. When Mama relinquishes and decides to split the proceeds giving the majority to Walter Lee he is swindled and the family encounters racism when Lena tries to provide Ruth with a dream home in an all-white neighborhood.

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