The Agonies Of “Passing” – Considering the Murder Mystery ‘Sapphire’

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United Kingdom, Videos on 2016-06-12 01:06Z by Steven

The Agonies Of “Passing” – Considering the Murder Mystery ‘Sapphire’

July 2014


The Agonies Of “Passing” – Considering the Murder Mystery ‘Sapphire

Starting in the late 1940’s, and continuing through to the end of the ‘50’s, Hollywood seemed to be obsessed with the concept of “passing” –light skinned black people passing for white. Though it wasn’t new, of course, somehow it caught Tinseltown’s attention and a slew of films were made, almost all them dealing with women in particular, who passed for white and the tragedies and sorrow that they encountered.

Elia Kazan’sPinky,” “Lost Boundaries,” “Imitation Of Life,” “Band of Angels,” “The Night of the Quarter Moon,” “I Passed for White,” and the would-be “Gone with the Wind” rip-off, “Raintree County,” with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, which, technically may not be a “passing” movie, though it deals with a pre-Civil war, antebellum Southern belle (Taylor), who goes slowly insane because she believes her real mother was a slave, who was her father’s lover (turns out that she wasn’t, but Taylor dies anyway for all her grief).

But, for my money, the real doozy of the passing-for-white films wasn’t from Hollywood, but came instead from the U.K.

I’m referring to the 1959 British mystery detective film “Sapphire,” directed by Basil Dearden, who specialized, during the late 50′s and 60′s, in films with controversial subject matter, such as his 1961 film “Victim,” which dealt with a successful and closeted gay barrister who is being blackmailed, and fights back against his tormentors. It is credited for being the first movie in which the word “homosexual” was actually used in a film.

But “Sapphire” is in another realm altogether…

Read the entire review here. Watch the entire film, Sapphire here.

Tags: , , ,