Cast & Crew
Widower Dr. Matt Younger and his daughter go to London for a month of dirt-bike racing. While there, Dr. Younger is surprised by finding himself attracted to Catherine, a charming but elusive woman who seems to have some mysterious men following her. A romance slowly develops between the doctor and Catherine, but there are complications to their happiness.
Ann E Smith
Pembroke J. Herring
Gordon K. Mccallum
A Warm December
Soon after arriving, Matt encounters a lovely African woman who's being trailed by two sinister-looking men. Now various elements of the movie - the English location, the handsome hero, the woman with ominous men shadowing her - give the action a James Bond aura that dovetails with the Swinging London theme. The echoes of Agent 007 grow more pronounced as Matt shakes the bloodhounds off the trail of the enigmatic beauty and shows a romantic interest in her. As for the movie's third identity, A Warm December is too dignified to be called a blaxploitation picture, but that craze was at a pinnacle in 1973, and any film with black protagonists came within hailing distance of it.
When it reaches the halfway mark, A Warm December sheds its triple identity - Swinging London adventure, James Bond-style thriller, and quasi-blaxploitation film - and becomes an old-fashioned romantic melodrama. The mysterious woman turns out to be Catherine Oswandu, the niece of an African ambassador and a key member of her nation's economic leadership, now engaged in discussions with the Soviet Union about support for a major infrastructure project. And the men trailing her weren't threatening at all: one was a well-meaning watchdog sent by her uncle, who likes to keep tabs on his brilliant but mischievous niece, and the other was a government physician who's concerned about her health for very good reasons.
Catherine quickly falls in love with Matt and bonds with little Stefanie, but clues indicate that she isn't free to follow her own path in life. For one thing, she cares deeply about the work she's doing to make her native country a better place, and settling down with Matt would mean moving to the United States and giving up her official position. The second reason, which is more serious and emerges more gradually, is that she suffers from a grave illness - sickle cell anemia, a hereditary disease suffered almost entirely by black people - that will kill her in the fairly near future. She has come to terms with this, but Matt is already a widower, and marrying him would doom him to losing a second wife and deprive young Stefanie of a second mother. Her agonizing decision lends considerable suspense to the story's final scenes.
Outweighing all of its other identities, A Warm December is very much a Sidney Poitier film. One of the most skillful and appealing Hollywood stars of his day, Poitier was also a capable director with several movies to his credit. His success in both categories would be impressive for anyone, but he faced the additional hurdles of being an African-American talent in an industry that's dominated by white actors and filmmakers to this day. Racial barriers were even more pronounced in the 1950s, when Poitier's acting career started to rise, and in the 1970s, when he became a director. His winning performance in Ralph Nelson's enthusiastically received 1963 drama Lilies of the Field made him the first African-American to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, and for many years he was the only African-American who could be called a top-of-the-line star.
Always conscious of his role as Hollywood's most prominent black representative and role model, Poitier enjoyed making popular entertainment films, but he was too respectable for blaxploitation, too American for James Bond, and too smart to try a Swinging London story when that trend was past its prime. This explains why A Warm December eventually drops those temporary identities and settles into a sweetly engaging romantic mode. Playing the quietly gifted Matt Younger, able to raise his daughter as a single dad while devoting his professional life to starting health clinics in underprivileged areas of the world, was a task ideally suited to Poitier's talents. He gets first-rate support from Esther Anderson, the beautiful Jamaican-born actress who plays Catherine so well - winning an NAACP Image Award for her portrayal - that it's a mystery why she has appeared in only a handful of screen roles since that time. Yvette Curtis is a tad too cute as Stefanie, but Earl Cameron brings plenty of gravitas to Ambassador George Oswandu, and Johnny Sekka does the same for Joseph Myomo, an African doctor with elegant tribal scars on his handsome face. One scene also shows the South African musician and activist Letta Mbulu singing an African song written by the legendary Miriam Makeba.
A surprising aspect of A Warm December is its sympathetic treatment of the Soviet Union, which is cooperating with Catherine's country on a hydroelectric project instead of pursuing the schemes and conspiracies often found in Hollywood pictures from the cold-war era. In other areas the film is more predictable, and it was much too tame for New York Times critic Roger Greenspun, who said watching it was like "opening some impossibly typical transcendentally awful issue of Reader's Digest" all about "kindness to children, homely virtues, sentimental sex, touristy travel and unforgettable personality." Many who see A Warm December will find those topics perfectly agreeable, and any film with Poitier is worth viewing for that reason alone.
Director: Sidney Poitier
Producer: Melville Tucker
Screenplay: Lawrence Roman
Cinematographer: Paul Beeson
Film Editing: Pembroke J. Herring, Peter Pitt
Art Direction: Elliot Scott
Music: Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson
With: Sidney Poitier (Dr. Matt Younger), Esther Anderson (Catherine Oswandu), Yvette Curtis (Stefanie Younger), George Baker (Dr. Henry Barlow), Johnny Sekka (Dr. Joseph Myomo), Earl Cameron (Ambassador George Oswandu), Hilary Crane (Marsha Barlow)
by David Sterritt
A Warm December
Released in United States 1972
Released in United States 1972