Native Son

2561. NATIVE SON (1950-USA). With JEAN WALLACE, RICHARD WRIGHT. Based on the novel by WRIGHT. Richard Wright’s legendary novel is at once an American classic and an incisive examination of what it means to be black in America. The writer himself stars in this superlative adaptation of his story. The setting is Chicago, a vast modern metropolis with much to offer in the way of diversion. However, an “invisible color fine” separates the haves and have-nots in the Windy City. Young Bigger Thomas finds himself trapped within the confines of that line. He lives with his mother and two siblings in a rat-infested ghetto hovel. Bigger has spent his entire life “reading, dreaming about machines and planes.” His desire is to become an explorer or flyer. Because of his race, he has learned early on that it is “better to keep your dreams locked in your heart.” Anger constantly seethes within Bigger, who already has been involved in committing petty crimes. However, he is pleased when a kindly and wealthy white man hires him as a chauffeur. Bigger proudly drives the man’s fancy automobile through the ghetto and takes his girl on an outing to an amusement park and the beach. On his first evening at work, he is assigned to drive his employer’s daughter to her school. The spiraling events and ensuing tragedy that culminates on that fateful night serve to mirror the manner in which, by Wright’s way of thinking, the inequities in the American system wreck lives and breed savagery and disorder. The film is at once a stark and biting allegory and a taut and highly entertaining drama. Wright gives a likable and naturalistic performance in his only screen role. 89 minutes Drama