Thursday, June 25, 2009


I rented "Claudine" on Netflix a few months ago. Three thoughts occurred to me. More on that later.

"Claudine" was released in 1974 and starred Diahann Carroll in the title role as a Harlem mother with six kids. James Earl Jones co-starred as Rupe, her love interest. The movie is a love story, but it's also a tart commentary on racism, poverty, sexuality and parental responsibility. And it's funny with a great score by Curtis Mayfield.

The role earned Carroll an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in 1975, but she lost to Ellen Burstyn, who grabbed the statuette for "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." Carroll was recommended for the role by Diana Sands, who was originally cast as Claudine, but was dying of cancer.

And now to my three thoughts about "Claudine."

(a) "Claudine" is good piece of filmmaking with crisp writing punctuated by Carroll's performance. Her Oscar nomination wasn't 1970s tokenism; she really was that good.

(b) Today, the movie would be made differently. The plot of the struggling single mother with a houseful of boisterous kids who finds love would pass muster now, but the scene where Claudine beats her daughter? I wonder. Or the subplot with the oldest son being a frustrated revolutionary: today they'd make him a snarling gang member. And somebody would have to die. And what of Claudine herself? She is smart, vulnerable and sexy. Today she'd be a wounded figure who would find herself through the course of the movie, probably in some confessional melodramatic scene.

And that led to my third thought: Lord have mercy, "Claudine" has "Tyler Perry Remake" written all over it.

(c)And with that, I was going to make a smarty-assed comment about my fear of Perry doing some slack-plotted, simplistically-written remake complete with face-slappings, neck-rolling "she told him" scenes, and--of course---set in Atlanta.

But as I think about it, maybe him remaking "Claudine" isn't a bad idea. A new movie could shine if Perry is properly inspired by the original's tight well-done script. Taraji P. Henson as Claudine...Boris Kudjoe/Morris Chestnut/Jeffrey Wright as Rupe..and nobody--and I mean nobody even remotely connected with the writing or acting in "Meet the Browns" or "Tyler Perry's House of Payne," who knows? It might be good?

Until then, the original is worth checking out. And here's an excellent and very pointed interview with Carroll discussing the role:

No comments: