Martin Luther King Jr. Day - 1/21 (Daytime)
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as our country honors the birthday of the great leader and messenger of love and peace during turbulent times, TCM celebrates with our annual day of programming highlighting minorities in the film industry. King (1929-1968), the most prominent spokesperson and leader in the U.S. civil rights movement during the 1950s and '60s, is remembered for advancing the cause through nonviolence and civil disobedience.
As usual, our celebration on this day focuses on the contributions of minorities in front of and behind the camera, as well as tracing the progress that Hollywood and society have made thanks in large part to the tireless work of Dr. King and his avid supporters around the country and in Hollywood. Here is a rundown of the films chosen for this year's lineup:
Within Our Gates (1920) is a silent film from pioneering filmmaker Oscar Micheaux concerning the racial climate in the U.S. during the early 20th century. Written, produced and directed by Micheaux, this film is one of the many movies in the "race films" genre: films made primarily for African-Americans during the era of segregated theaters and showings. This film is also the earliest known surviving movie made by an African-American. Swing! (1938) is another production written, produced and directed by Micheaux. Cora Green and Hazel Diaz star as two women from Birmingham, Alabama, whose fates co-mingle through marriages, affairs and careers as cabaret performers in Harlem.
Edge of the City (1957) is a film noir directed by Martin Ritt and starring Sidney Poitier and John Cassavetes as Manhattan longshoremen, whose friendly relationship is resented by fellow workers with racial bias. The film was considered unusual for its time because of its portrayal of interracial brotherhood. Poitier also stars in A Patch of Blue (1965), a study of a black man who befriends and falls in love with a white female teenager (Elizabeth Hartman) who is blind. This movie was nominated for five Oscars and won for Best Supporting Actress (Shelley Winters as the girl's overbearing mother).
The Learning Tree (1969) is a drama produced, written and directed by photographer/author/filmmaker Gordon Parks and based on his semi-autobiographical novel. Kyle Johnson stars as an adolescent boy who becomes involved in the investigation of a murder while learning hard lessons about responsibility and justice. Parks' directorial debut made him Hollywood's first African-American director. Poitier made his sophomore feature film as director for the romantic drama A Warm December (1973). As the star of the film, Poitier plays an American doctor who falls in love with the daughter (Esther Anderson) of an African ambassador.
Losing Ground (1982) is a semi-autobiographical movie written and directed by Kathleen Collins and starring Seret Scott as a Manhattan philosophy professor whose marriage to an artist (Bill Gunn) becomes shaky after he sells a painting to a museum. The film is acknowledged as the first feature-length drama directed by a black American woman since the 1920s. Daughters of the Dust (1991) is a highly praised independent film written, directed and produced by Julie Dash, which gained distinction as the first feature film directed by an African-American woman to be theatrically distributed in the U.S. Set in 1902, it follows the lives of three generations of Gullah women on South Carolina's Saint Helena Island.