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A dramatic tale about three generations of women in a black family.
Mama Rosie works as a school janitor to support her daughters, teenager Billie Jean and older half-sisters Norma and Ruth Ann. The family lives in a disheveled rental house, which they share with Mama Rosie's mother, Mu' Dear and Mu' Dear's boyfriend Herbert. Although both the pregnant Ruth Ann and Norma have several children, neither is married or plans to leave the house. Billie Jean, who believes that a career as a professional dancer will lead her out of poverty and prevent her from suffering her sisters' fate, practices daily despite their resentment and constant taunting. When Mama Rosie one day learns that Billie Jean has quit high school to be a waitress and dance at the Groovy Bar and Grill, she laments that Netta, one of several neighborhood girls Mama Rosie has fostered over the years, is the only child to go to college. After ridiculing her real daughters for failing to live up to Netta's example, Mama Rosie calls Netta at her university to ask her to come home for Mother's Day, and fantasizes that Netta will soon teach at the school where she works, providing her with some recognition and a sense of accomplishment. One day, Norma and Ruth Ann's long-absent father Earl shows up unexpectedly from Detroit, where he works as a shoe salesman. Easily impressing Ruth Ann and Norma with his new El Dorado Cadillac car and cash handouts, Earl hopes to win back Mama Rosie's affection. When a skeptical Mu' Dear admonishes him for refusing to give money to Billie Jean, who was born out of wedlock and fathered by another man, Earl reasons that she is not his child and insinuates that Billie Jean's dancing aspirations will only lead to working as a stripper. Instead of defending Billie Jean, Mama Rosie brags about Netta and the other girls she has fostered, claiming that her real children do not appreciate her as the others do. In a moment alone with Mama Rosie, Earl asks her if she would consider a reconciliation. When she refuses, Earl offers her one thousand dollars and tells her to call him when she finds what she is looking for in a man, but Mama Rosie is reluctant to accept his empty promises of devotion and is not shocked when Earl takes back the money. After Earl departs, Mama Rosie vehemently ridicules her mother for living with Herbert "in sin," but wise Mu' Dear advises Mama Rosie to let go of her old resentments before they destroy the family. As Mama Rosie anxiously awaits Netta's letter regarding a Mother's Day visit, Norma and Ruth Ann conspire to turn Billie Jean against their mother and Netta, whom they fear will encourage Billie Jean's blossoming independence. Alone with Billie Jean, the two tell her that Mama Rosie secretly wishes Billie Jean would marry and leave the house, adding that Mama Rosie will give Billie Jean's room to Netta when she returns to teach at Mama Rosie's school. Fearing that the foster daughter will claim what little affection her mother has for her, Billie Jean agrees to hide any letters from Netta. On Mother's Day, Mama Rosie, unaware that Netta has written to arrange a visit, is at work when her foster daughter arrives at the house. Ruth Ann and Norma mock the properly dressed college student. Surmising that Norma and Ruth Ann have hardened against her since her departure, Netta tries to reestablish her relationship with Billie Jean and asks if she has considered applying to the dance competition about which she had written to Billie Jean. The teenager then realizes that her half-sisters have been keeping Netta's letters from her and eagerly considers Netta's offer to live with her while Billie Jean finishes high school and goes to college. Wanting to discourage Billie Jean's dreams, Norma and Ruth Ann retort that Netta's sole motivation for attending college is to sleep with white boys. When Netta announces that she is a virgin, the sisters mercilessly badger her for being a prude. Insulted, Netta leaves the house but, before going, tells Billie Jean that her dancing is very special. That Sunday, Mama Rosie and her daughters attend church, where Netta has taken her biological mother, a woman wheel-chair bound and catatonic from mental illness. Spotting Netta in the back of the church, Mama Rosie rushes to her foster daughter with great pride, but Netta explains that her first duty is to her real mother now. Later, back at home, when Mama Rosie questions Billie Jean about her future, Billie Jean discloses Netta's proposal for her to finish school. Willing to do anything to thwart Billie Jean's ambitions, Ruth Ann and Norma insist that a truancy officer should be called to handle their half-sister's misbehavior and wrestle her to the ground, forcing Herbert to call for Mu' Dear to resolve the situation. The matriarch admonishes her daughter about caring for strangers' children more than her own and tells her to let Billie Jean live her life, saying "She can't do no worse with hers, than what you done with yours." Days later, Billie Jean has packed her bags and leaves for school after embracing Mama Rosie, who tells Mu' Dear that she had never meant to hurt Billie Jean, only to ensure she and the other girls did not end up "just like me."
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||PG||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 9 Nov 1972; Los Angeles opening: 15 Nov 1972|
|Release Date:||1972||Production Date:||
dubbed from EB loaner
|Color/B&W:||Color||Distributions Co:||Cinerama Releasing Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Lee Savin Productions|
|Duration(mins):||97 or 107||Country:||United States|
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kevin sellers 2016-02-05
About half as good as "Raisin In The Sun," which it more than a little resembles, especially with Claudia MacNeill playing the same role of the...
Good Afternoon, January 20, 2016An excellent movie. TCM must stop waiting until Dr. King's Birthday...
Untimely Viewing Hours
Mary Jo 2016-01-16
I was sadly disappointed, that as a cable subscriber who now pays $130 per month for a package that includes TCM, that really good movies that portray the...