Richard Wright's Almos' a Man
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Shown as part of the American Short Story series on PBS and, yes, introduced by a fragile and ailing Henry Fonda, the portrayal of a young black man's desire to own a gun, a symbol of what will make him a man, misfires literally and otherwise. The accident leads the boy to flee his home to escape the punishment of the landowner and the fine imposed, and yes, we may wish to know what happens to him, but his running--almos' into manhood--to catch the train, may take him north for safety and a kind of freedom.
Levar Burton, the young star of ROOTS, gives a splendid performance and was likely cast as a result of his popularity following the enormous success of the Haley novel.
The entire series is a masterpiece of the dramatization of short fiction and included "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," F. Scott Fitzgerald's early story starring Shelley Duvall and Bud Cort, "I'm a Fool," the Sherwood Anderson classic starring Ron Howard (before his directing days), and "Who am I this Time," the Vonnegut delight with Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon.
I recall, too, that during one season of this showcase, the introductions were done by Colleen Dewhurst.
Were these to be re-run on prime time, they would hold up quite beautifully; with such great works of literature treated reverently by directors and actors, why wouldn't they.
The dramatization of the short story "Almos' A Man" by Richard Wright places before us the struggle of a young Black boy trying to come into manhood in an environment destined to break his spirit. This coming of age story shows the struggle of an adolescent coming into manhood which is common to all young boys. In this story the struggle is much deeper because we have a Black youth who must deal not only with his personal struggle but also that of a racist environment.
Levar Burton gives an excellent performance of this young boy struggling to come into his manhood. Madge Sinclair plays his stern mother who is willing to bend a little even if her husband disagrees.While watching this story you will be shown the struggles that Black parents have to endure to try and keep their children safe as well as the inner promptings of Dave's misguided sense of what it means to be a man.
Circumstances back fire on Dave as he sees that he lacks the maturity to handle certain things. So what can he do? Where can he go? Can a young Black boy become a man in hostile southern territory especially since he has become a wage slave to the white farmer? Wright challenges us to reflect on this question. Dave's rebelliousness is more than the usual stage of adolescent development. The mere fact of his race makes his choices narrower. Sit back, relax and enjoy "Almos' A Man". See how a boy in a limited world tries to become that which is denied to him and his people.
One can smile at the beginning with Levar Burton's portrayal of boyish enthusiasm, of yearning to have a gun of his own. And then the scenes after he gets the gun, the anticipation of the first shot are especially well done...you know something is going to happen. And then at first, you're smiling, maybe even laughing at the result of that first shot until you slowly realize with the boy what he's done. And then the aftermath in which he must make the choice as to which path into manhood to take.
There is much to absorb in this short film. Although the characters are black and the situation unique because of the racial implications, there is still much that can be applied to any person's life, regardless of time period, race, or sex.
This is one to watch, and watch a second and a third (at least) time to get all that is there.
The cast give solid performances though I have an issue with LeVar Burton's portrayal of Dave. The character seems five-year-old as he pretends to shoot an imaginary gun. Okay, Wright's character is immature. But he's not developmentally disabled.
The film stock used to make the DVD is somewhat degraded, so it's disappointing as a visual experience.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I really enjoy these short films that depict life in the South during the 1930s.Published 12 months ago by fktaylor
I had to watch this for a homework assignment otherwise I wouldn't have ordered it. Not a great film and some of the dialogue has been changed from the writing.Published on March 16, 2013 by Tony Moore
This was a library video the children and I watched years ago. Very short. I bought this for my son to laugh with him about his remark he made after the movie..... Read morePublished on May 2, 2010 by Pauline Ellison
I taught these stories for years in high school using some of these videos and am now assembling a video library for my son. Not high def but great stories well told.Published on March 17, 2010 by Allen L. Peters