Mississippi Matinee an Exhibition of the State and the Silver Screen
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Introduction: Richard Wright(1)
Finally, a top French director, Pierre Chenal, assured Wright that he would preserve the story's integrity, and together, the two men collaborated on the screenplay.  Canada Lee, who played Bigger Thomas in Orson Welles' theatrical version, agreed to reprise the character for the film, but by the time production finally began, the actor had committed to other projects.  Without any prior acting experience, Wright stepped into the role.  Most of the filming occurred on a studio lot in Argentina although exterior Chicago scenes were shot on location.  Native Son premiered in November 1950 on a Pan-American flight.  However, by the time it appeared on American screens in 1951 over thirty minutes of the film lay on the cutting room floor of the New York Board of Censors.  The era's Production Code prohibited miscegenation and also mandated that a movie could not create sympathy for a criminal at the expense of those responsible for upholding justice.  The movie was a box office and critical failure.
In 1986, another production attempted to capture the classic novel on film.  First begun as television project for PBS's American Playhouse series, the producers decided instead to release it instead on the big screen.  Victor Love plays Bigger Thomas, and the cast includes Elizabeth McGovern and Matt Dillon.  Ironically, the director chose to delete several of the same scenes censored from the first film in an effort to make Bigger Thomas "a commercially viable hero."
On display is a movie still of Richard Wright and Gloria Madison from 1951.  The pressbook for that first film includes a synopsis of the plot, cast and crew credits, illustrations of posters and lobby cards, and provides theater managers with articles and advertisement for submission to local newspapers. 

Online exhibition © copyright 2006
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University of Mississippi
University, MS 38677
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