Monthly Archives: June 2011

Wednesday, July 6th: “Native Son” at the Portage Theater

Join us this Wednesday, July 6th, for a rare screening of the 1951 film adaptation of Richard Wright’s classic, devastating novel NATIVE SON – with Wright himself in the leading role!
35mm print from the Library of Congress, read about the restoration and the film on our blog.
The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket

Native Son lobby card

Pierre Chenal • 1951
Some films simply exist and demand to be seen. This is one such thing. An independently produced adaptation of Richard Wright’s landmark novel, Native Son has the distinction of a screenplay co-concocted by Wright and the mind-blowing possible-distinction of Wright himself playing Bigger Thomas. Though the novel had been well-received and already mounted as a Broadway show by no less than Orson Welles, the inflammatory story—Bigger works as a chauffeur for a rich white family and inadvertently kills the privileged daughter on his first night of service, later pinning the murder on a radical labor activist—faced obvious obstacles on the way to the screen. A Chicago story that had no chance of being shot in our city aside from some insert footage, it was instead produced on the cheap in Argentina, in English, with French director Pierre Chenal (best known for his 1935 version of Crime and Punishment and lately self-exiled from Occupied France) at the helm. The rest of the cast is amateur and local talent and the film as a whole was intended as demonstration of the country’s fitness as a production center. Suffice it to say, Native Son encountered censorship trouble during its brief release and American filmmakers did not flock to Buenos Aires. (KW)
90 min • Argentina Sono Films S.A.C.I. • 35mm
Preserved by the Library of Congress, special thanks to Rob Stone
Serial: Daredevils of Red Circle: Sabotage (William Witney and John English, 1939) 16mm

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