CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY (director: Zoltan Korda; screenwriter: Alan Paton/from the novel by Alan Paton; cinematographer: Robert Krasker; editor: David Eady; music: R. Gallois Montbrun; cast: Canada Lee (Stephen Kumalo), Charles Carson (James Jarvis), Sidney Poitier (Reverend Msimangu), Joyce Carey (Margaret Jarvis), Geoffrey Keen (Father Vincent), Vivien Clinton (Mary), Michael Goodliffe (Martens), Albertina Temba (Mrs. Kumalo), Edric Connor (John Kumalo), Lionel Ngakane (Absalom Kumalo), Charles McRae (Stephen’s friend), Bruce Meredith Smith (Captain Jaarsveldt), Bruce Anderson (Frank Smith), Ribbon Dhlamini (Gertrude); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Zoltan Korda/Alan Paton; Lopert Pictures Corporation; 1951-UK)
“Well-intentioned engaging drama about South Africa’s evil system of apartheid in the 1940s.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Zoltan Korda (“The Drum”/”Sahara”/”A Woman’s Vengeance”) directs this well-intentioned engaging drama about South Africa’s evil system of apartheid in the 1940s. It’s a hardhitting story about redemption and hope in a dark period, where life is miserable for the majority native population due to poor social conditions caused by Apartheid, which didn’t end until the 1990s. It’s based on the 1946 bestseller by Alan Paton, who also wrote the screenplay. It was previously made into a Broadway musical Lost in the Stars (1949). It was shot in Natal, in the slums of Johannesburg and in the London studio.
Stephen Kumalo (Canada Lee) is a simple, native Negro Anglican country preacher who lives in a rural Zulu village in the hills of Natal, South Africa, and for the first time in his life goes to the big city of Johannesburg to seek a missing sister, Gertrude (Ribbon Dhlamini), and a missing wayward son, Absalom (Lionel Ngakane). The preacher learns from a young priest named Msimangu (Sidney Poitier) that Gertrude has become a prostitute in the city slums and further learns Absalom has become a criminal, who has done a stint in reform school.
At the same time of Kumalo’s visit the wealthy bigoted white farmer James Jarvis (Charles Carson), someone the preacher doesn’t know but who comes from his area of Natal, travels to Johannesburg to claim the body of his murdered respected, idealistic son Arthur. Ironically Arthur, who had been helping the blacks get a better life, was murdered during a botched robbery by Absalom. Jarvis reads about his son’s humanitarian activities and has a change of heart about his bigotry due to the misery he now feels over his loss. On the evening before the execution of Absalom, Stephen and Jarvis, who are both grief-stricken over the loss of their sons, have a long conversation that holds out hope for the future getting better for South Africa.
The sobering film, though a bit too optimistic about the future, is quite effective in delivering the misery both races are undergoing in a South Africa that has apartheid.
REVIEWED ON 5/24/2009 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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