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The Learning Tree is a 1969 coming-of-age film about the experiences of an African American teen growing up in a small Kansas town. The semi-autobiographical film was written and directed by Gordon Parks. Newton "Newt" Winger (Kyle Johnson) spends most of his days hanging out with his buddies and dreaming of going to college after high school. Newt and his buddies butt heads with a troubled acquaintance Marcus Savage (Alex Clarke), who ends up spending several months in jail. In the meantime, the Jefferson family moves to town with their teen daughter Arcella (Mira Waters). Newt and Arcella immediately hit it off and begin dating.

Newt's mother works as a domestic for Judge Cavanaugh (Russell Thorson), whose son Chauncey (Zooey Hall) is Newt's friend. Newt is heartbroken when Arcella reveals that she is pregnant and Chauncey is the father. When Newt decides one day to check on Arcella, he finds that her family has packed up and moved away. By this time, Marcus is released from prison and is bitter than ever.

When Newt and his buddies are caught stealing apples from local farmer Jake Kiner (George Mitchell), he works the next few Saturdays at Jake's farm for free. One morning while Newt is up in the barn, he witnesses an altercation between Jake and a drunken ex Silas Newhall (Malcolm Atterbury), who demands pay. After Silas is knocked unconscious, Marcus' father Booker Savage (Richard Ward) assaults and kills Jake and steals money and liquor that is stored in the barn.

Silas is initially arrested for the murder but Newt comes forward and identifies Booker as the real killer. Booker attempts to escape the courthouse but is killed when he accidentally shoots himself. When Marcus finds that it was Newt who turned in his father, he becomes enraged and goes after Newt with a gun. After Newt disarms Marcus in the woods, Marcus runs away and is shot dead by town Sheriff Corky (Dana Elcar).

| 1969 | 1 hr 47 min | 7.1/10
Kyle Johnson, Alex Clarke, Estelle Evans, Dana Elcar
Gordon Parks
Produced By
Gordon Parks

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