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Black Like Me

2012

4.2 out of 5 stars (68) IMDb 6.8/10

Based on the landmark memoir by John Howard Griffin, Black Like Me stars James Whitmore as Griffin, who medically altered his pigment and, with the help of a sunlamp, reinvented himself as an itinerant black writer navigating his way through Mississippi and Alabama. Along the way he experienced firsthand both crushing racism and the incredible life force of the Afro-American communities.

Starring:
James Whitmore, Sorrell Booke
Runtime:
1 hour, 47 minutes

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By A Customer on June 16, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This is the most powerful film with regards to the race problem in the Unites States that I have ever seen. A white man, doing research in sociology, turns himself black with the use of certain drugs, which allows him a glimpse into how "the other half" lived. Our protagonist gets a full dose of what it was like to be a black man in the middle years of the twentieth century. the attitudes of blacks as well as whites are examined throughout the film, and are quite ineteresting. (It's also a bit interesting to see "Grandpa Walton" playing a racist bigot!) A very important film that I would recommend to anyone, although it is not easy to watch. Anyone who gets through this film may very well have a darker opinion of humanity when it is over.
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Format: DVD
For those of us of a certain generation, this was a seminal movie. It brought race relations to the fore in a way which Time Magazine articles or even newsreel footage of Civil Rights marchers being sprayed down by power hoses didn't.
The impact came, for me at least, from James Whitmore's understated, slow-burn performance. Nothing that dramatic happens to him in this movie. He's just shunted off incrementally, in one place or another, for no other reason than that he's passing himself off for black. It's really a Spencer Tracy acting turn, in a way. His transformation from weakling to adjudicator is akin to Tracy's in BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK.
The Bad guys are pretty much set up in a row. We also know who the good guy is. Hate to use the analogy, but things are presented in very black and white terms here. We know who the heroes and villains are. But the drama is in how it plays out. Whitmore learns lesson after painful lesson. The upshot is that his story and the film itself acts as a powerful exposé of the segregrationalist policies of the era. It made it a lot harder for the South to justify it's arcane drinking fountain, swimming pool, cafe-seating, bus-seating policies, in other words. One of the really important movies of the era, in other words, and one that should still be receiving kudos!
BEK
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
After years of neglect, BLACK LIKE ME finally gets a good presentation with this new 2-disc DVD release, which features a beautiful restoration of the 1964 motion picture along with a documentary about the author of the book on which the film is based. The DVD offers the choice of the original 4x3 format or a 16x9 version, both of which look impressively crisp and clear.
As for the film itself, this is a case where one has to look beyond the finished product and think more in terms of the message of the story. Why? Well, as other reviewers have noted, there's just no escaping the fact that James Whitmore does not even remotely look like he could be taken for an African-American, despite any amount of black makeup. And if you're looking for powerhouse dramatic performances or an unforgettable music score, you're not going to find them here. Still, if you can look beyond its deficiencies, this film has some important points to make, and it does so in a very understated and effective manner.
BLACK LIKE ME is a quiet and thought-provoking exploration of the effects of racism in day-to-day existence rather than a shocking expose of racial hostilities. As such, there are no scenes of beatings, cross burnings or other overt acts of violence. Instead, it shows how bigotry even in its most subtle forms can deprive an individual of dignity and the simple ability to lead a normal life. Think for a moment what it would be like to have to act in a demeaning way, on a daily basis, just to avoid verbal or physical abuse, or to be denied the opportunity to even apply for a job simply because of your skin color. These are the things that the film addresses.
BLACK LIKE ME might easily be dismissed by present-day viewers as a dated oddity.
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Format: VHS Tape
I first read this book when I was still a teenager, and got to see the movie years later on those classic movie channels during Black History Month, and it is and was as thought provoking now as it was then. I don't know how this man wanted to do what some deem unthinkable, but he did, and he has my admiration. In the movie after revealing his true heritage, the man of the house wanted to know why would he do such a thing, while the younger man was real critical of him, and to top that, they were wondering why he would take advantage of his hospitality like that. Like a reverse racism thing if you would. But, I think that they were just bewildered by the whole thing. Please check out the book, and the movie if you can. They play it on Turner Classic Movies esp. during Black History Month.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
6/20/15 The bonus disc of 'Uncommon Vision: The Life and Times of John Howard Griffin' as well as the flawless quality of the DVD 'Black Like Me' have me*, as the buyer*, give applaude to the manufacturers and distributors of cinema 'Black Like Me'.... The bonus disc of the bio of Griffin as well as the DVD show via the writer & author perceptions of Griffin the 'thought process' via thought ,word, and deed in times as far back as those times that proceeded the 'beetles' generation (in 1959) in parts of the USA's South......The disc also included Griffin's experiences during the Nazi invasions in Europe prior to the end of World War II . 6/20/15 abj
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