A Raisin in the Sun
- 2 hr 8 min
Raisin in the Sun is a groundbreaking film about the hopes and dreams of an African-American family in the 1950s, as powerful today as it was in movie theaters over 50 years ago. Raisin in the Sun is the story the Youngers, three generations of an African-American family living in a dark, crowded apartment on the poor South Side of Chicago, each one with dreams of achieving a better life. When Lena (Claudia McNeil) receives a life insurance check for $10,000 after her husband’s death, all the family members in the family wants to use the money to fulfill their own dreams. Lena’s son Walter (Sidney Poitier), wants to buy a liquor store to escape his demeaning chauffeur job and affirm his manhood. Walter’s wife Ruth and mother Lena (Claudia McNeill) want to buy a roomy house in a safe neighborhood. Walter’s sister Beneatha (the late Diana Sands), a college student wants to go to medical school. Lena finally decides to use the money to buy a house in the unwelcoming, all-white Clybourne Park. Emotions are intense. Walter’s anger at being a chauffeur emerges in virtually every word he speaks. The heat of Beneatha’s intense ambitions radiates from her. Lena is stubborn in her love for her family and her desire to give them a real home. Raisin in the Sun was first produced in 1959 on Broadway, where it was nominated for five Tony Awards. The author, Lorraine Hansberry, was one of the first to depict a realistic African-American family with its love, bitterness and longings. Sadly, Hansberry died of cancer at the age of 34. The aspirations and discrimination in Hansberry’s play predicted later events of the 60s and 70s: the civil rights movement, the assassination of Martin Luther King, urban riots, feminism, and interest in African roots. Beneatha’s indifference to marriage, and her dream to become a doctor, foreshadows the feminist movement of the 1960s. Her African boyfriend Joseph Agasai (Ivan Dixon) encourages her interest in her African roots. There are no stereotypes here: all of their desperation, and their love, is genuinely human. The strong cast makes them achingly real. The title Raisin in the Sun comes from the poem A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes: What happens to a dream deferred?...Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? The themes of Raisin in the Sun are still valid today, particularly discrimination and economic hardship. The film reminds us of where we’ve been and where we still need to go.