Sidney Poitier, Shelley Winters & Elizabeth Hartman
A Patch of Blue (1965)
A blind, uneducated white girl is befriended by a black man, who becomes determined to help her escape her impoverished and abusive home life.
A Patch of Blue is a 1965 American drama film directed by Guy Green about the relationship between a black man, Gordon (played by Sidney Poitier), and a blind white female teenager, Selina (Elizabeth Hartman), and the problems that plague their relationship when they fall in love in a racially divided America. Made in 1965 against the backdrop of the growing civil rights movement, the film explores racism from the perspective of “love is blind.” Shelley Winters won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in this film.
Scenes of Poitier and Hartman kissing were excised from the film when it was shown in film theaters in the Southern United States. These scenes are intact in the DVD version. According to the DVD audio commentary, it was the decision of director Guy Green that A Patch of Blue be filmed in black-and-white, although color was available. In the 1980s, Turner Entertainment Co. colorized the movie for broadcast on the Turner-owned cable station TNT. The colorized version was not released on VHS or DVD, and has not been broadcast since shortly after its initial broadcasts.
The film was adapted by Guy Green from the 1961 book Be Ready with Bells and Drums by the Australian author Elizabeth Kata. The book later won a Writers Guild of America award. The plot differs slightly from the film in that it has a less optimistic ending. In addition to the Best Supporting Actress win for Winters, the film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Elizabeth Hartman), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Black-and-White) (George Davis, Urie McCleary, Henry Grace, Charles S. Thompson), Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) and Best Music (Original Music Score).
Elizabeth Hartman in A Patch of Blue, her debut film
Selina D’Arcey (Elizabeth Hartman) is an 18-year-old blind girl living with her prostitute mother Rose-Ann (Shelley Winters) and drunkard grandfather Ol’ Pa (Wallace Ford), in a tiny apartment of a large city. She strings beads for a living, and spends her days cleaning the apartment, washing and ironing her mother’s and grandfather’s clothes, and preparing their supper. Her mother is abusive towards her, while her grandfather is mostly ignorant of Selina’s mother’s behavior. Selina lives an underprivileged life with no friends, education or social life.
One day in a nearby park, Selina meets Gordon Ralfe (Sidney Poitier), an educated and soft-spoken black man working night shifts in an office, and the two quickly become friends. Gordon learns that she was blinded at the age of 5 when Rose-Ann threw chemicals on her while attempting to hit her husband. She tells him that she has never attended school, has been taught very little, and has never heard of braille. Gordon teaches Selina how to navigate busy city sidewalks, tell directions by the sun, and find the restroom in the park. Gordon receives stares from white people for being with a white young woman.
Rose-Ann’s friend and fellow prostitute Sadie realizes that Selina is young and can be useful in their business. Meanwhile, Selina is falling in love with Gordon and cries in the park when he is late showing up. Gordon gives her a lesson in how to shop for groceries and takes her to his house. Gordon’s brother Mark objects to Gordon bringing a white girl home. Gordon explains that she is just a friend and needs help. Selina likes the music box that was given to Gordon by his grandmother Pearl. Selina tells him that she also had a friend named Pearl once, but that Rose-Ann forbade their friendship because she was black (unaware that Gordon is black too). She also tells Gordon that she knows what having sexual intercoruse is, as once she was raped by a man who was her mother’s client.
Selina the next day finds herself abandoned at her usual place in the park during a thunderstorm, and panics until Gordon appears to lead her home. Rose-Ann sees her with him in the park and tells her that Gordon is black. In their apartment, hearing Rose-Ann insult Gordon, Selina loses her temper and fights with Rose-Ann. The next morning, Rose-Ann tells Selina that they are moving and will leave Ol’ Pa behind. Selina refuses and offers to stay behind and look after Ol’ Pa. In the meantime, Gordon has contacted a blind school which is ready to take Selina. While Rose-Ann is away, Selina runs away to the park and meets Gordon. She tells Gordon about the plan, and he assures her that she will be leaving for a school in 2–3 days. However, Selina wants to be with Gordon rather than go to school. Finding Selina missing from the house, Rose-Ann takes Ol’ Pa to the park and confronts Gordon. Despite Rose-Ann’s resistance, Gordon manages to take Selina away, and Ol’ Pa stops Rose-Ann, telling her that Selina is not a child anymore.
At Gordon’s house, Selina asks Gordon to marry her, to which Gordon replies that there are many types of love, and she will later realize that their relationship won’t work. Selina tells him that she loves him, and knows that he is black, and that it doesn’t matter to her. He then tells her they will wait one year to find out if their love will lead to marriage. Meanwhile, the school bus arrives to pick up Selina. They say their goodbyes, but shortly after she walks out the door to the bus, Gordon remembers she forgot the music box and races down the stairs after her. He sees he’s too late and that the bus is driving away and wistfully tosses the box in the air, catching it with a smile, suggesting he will see her again to give her the music box.
- Sidney Poitier – Gordon Ralfe
- Shelley Winters – Rose-ann D’Arcey
- Elizabeth Hartman – Selina D’Arcey
- Wallace Ford – Ol’ Pa
- Ivan Dixon – Mark Ralfe
- Elisabeth Fraser – Sadie
- John Qualen – Mr. Faber
- Kelly Flynn – Yanek Faber
- Debi Storm – Selina (age 5)
- Renata Vanni – Mrs. Favaloro
- Saverio LoMedico – Mr. Favaloro
- Casey Merriman – Casey M
The soundtrack to A Patch of Blue was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. It gained Goldsmith his second Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score following his score to Freud in 1962. It was also one of the 250 nominated scores for theAmerican Film Institute‘s top 25 American film scores. The score has been released three times on CD; in 1991 through Mainstream Records (with the score to David and Lisa by Mark Lawrence, in 1992 through Tsunami Records (with his score to Patton), and an extended version in 1997 through Intrada Records.