Donald Bogle is the leading historian of African-American film and television, with books including Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films; Prime Time Blues: African Americans on Network Television; and the best-selling Dorothy Dandridge. His latest biography, Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters (Harper Collins) traces the tumultuous twists and turns of Waters’ seven-decade career, which took her from vaudeville and recorded music to the Broadway stage to movies and television. The book is a riveting blend of social and personal history that sheds new light on one of America’s brightest and most troubled stars. Bogle will discuss Waters’ career and introduce a screening of The Member of the Wedding. The event will be followed by a book signing. The Member of the Wedding
Dir. Fred Zinnemann. 1952, 91 mins. 35mm print. With Ethel Waters, Julie Harris. Based on the novel by Carson McCullers. In her strongest film performance, Waters recreates her Broadway role as Berenice, the maid who befriends a young tomboy who is unhappy about her brother’s wedding.
Free with Museum admission.
Ethel Waters sings Eyes On The Sparrow. Song from the 1952 movie "The Member of the Wedding" With Ethel Waters as Bernice Sadie Brown; Julie Harris as Frankie Addams; and Brandon De Wilde as John Henry.
THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING, screen play by Edna and Edward Anhalt, based upon the book and play by Carson McCullers; directed by Fred zinnemann. A Stanley Kramer Company production presented by Columbia Pictures. At the Sutton.
Berenice Sadie Brown . . . . . Ethel Waters
Frankie Addams . . . . . Julie Harris
John Henry . . . . . Brandon de wilde
Jarvis . . . . . Arthur Franz
Janice . . . . . Nancy Gates
Mr. Addams . . . . . William Hansen
Honey Camden Brown . . . . . James Edwards
T. T. williams . . . . . Harry Bolden
Soldier . . . . . Dick Moore
Barney MacKean . . . . . Danny Mummert
Helen . . . . . June Hedin
Doris . . . . . Ann Carter
Twilight Time's beautiful Bu-ray edition of "The Member of the Wedding" is sure to thrill cinephiles and readers who appreciate the work of Carson McCullers. Fred Zinnemann's gorgeous 1952 film -- featuring luscious black and white cinematography by Hal Mohr -- preserves the main cast of the Broadway stage adaptation of McCullers' novel, with Julie Harris (26 at the time of filming) starring as the film's 12-year-old central character, Frankie Addams. Harris was nominated for an Oscar for her performance which is nothing short of brilliant. Equally impressive is singer Ethel Waters, who co-stars as Berenice, the Addams' maid and Frankie's foster mother. An astonishing Brandon De Wilde rounds out the core cast as Frankie's younger cousin, John Henry.
The book and play are edgier, but the film retains elements that jar even today. Frankie is essentially coded as a youthful lesbian; her struggle to connect with others in ways both meaningful and sustainable will have broad appeal, but those of us who grew up queer will also appreciate her keen yearning for (and bitterness at rejection by) those of her own gender, as well as her unthinking refusal to abide by socially imposed requirements around gender conduct. Her younger cousin's love of dolls and dress-up will strike an even deeper chord. Berenice's dignity in the face of racial inequalities, and her moving recollections of love lost (and never fully regained) parallel those implied issues around sexual orientation and gender identity.
The extras include a new audio commentary featuring singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega (who has created a one-woman show about McCullers), David Botelho, who also authored a McCullers-related play, "31 Pine Street," about a summer McCullers and Tennessee Williams spent writing (Williams coaxed McCullers to adapt her own book into the Broadway play), and film historian David Del Valle. A second audio commentary features McCullers biographer Virginia Spencer Carr, who appears again in a featurette called "The World of Carson McCullers" (Spencer Carr claims a spiritual kinship with McCullers, declaring that in her own early life, "I was a Frankie").
Other extras include "The Journey from Stage to Film," a doc about how the lauded Broadway play was translated to the screen with the core stage cast intact. Commentators include Kevin Spacey and Karen Kramer, widow of "The Member of the Wedding" producer Stanley Kramer.
An Introduction by Karen Kramer is also included, as is the film's original theatrical trailer (which makes for a great resource if you want to check out how well done the hi-def transfer is).
An isolated score track features Alex north's music. Julie Kirgo, as always, provides the booklet essay.
Twilight Time hits it out of the park with this can't-miss new edition of a classic film.