I’ve been snowed in for the past five days thanks to “Snowmaggedon 2010” and started to get a little stir crazy until the Gods of random tv programming heard my prayers and a little gem of a movie came across my television screen — Claudine. Needless to say, I squealed like I was told I would be advancing to the next round of American Idol.
I’m a sucker for a romance movie and I think it all started with this movie when I first saw it as a child. On paper James Earl Jones and Diahann Carroll wouldn’t seem to be the right actors to cast in these roles of a garbage man and single mother of six on welfare, but they were perfect. Together they were extraordinary in a story about love against the odds and how sometimes you just have to say “screw it” and jump head first into a relationship. Yes, their circumstances weren’t necessary ideal or idyllic, but it was a real story and you found yourself rooting for them to get it together and just get together!
The movie touches upon a number of social and political issues — poverty, welfare, Black radicalism, perceptions of black fatherhood and teen pregnancy. But the one issue that rings loud and clear throughout the movie is love — love of self, love of family, love of your culture — and how with it you can work out almost anything. Each character comes to this realization and as with most romantic movies it ends with a happy ending, but not without a little turmoil along the way.
The other essential part of this movie that makes it a classic and a must see, is the soundtrack. Gladys Knights and the Pips under the direction of Curtis Mayfield as the producer of the film’s score is simple perfection. The songs — Makings of You, Make this a Happy Home, To Be Invisible, Hold On — add a texture to the movie that provides an additional voice even when the characters on the screen aren’t speaking.
The film received much acclaim when it was released in 1974 — Diahann Carroll was nominated for an Oscar and the film was nominated for other awards. This film holds a special place in my heart and presents a slice of black love on screen that I can (and have) watched over and over (and over) again.