Virtual Cinema: New Restoration of Richard Wright’s “Native Son” October 4, 2020
Revisit a classic adaptation restored to its original vision.
Richard Wright’s controversial 1940 novel Native Son exposed the injustices of Black urban life, witnessed through the eyes of Bigger Thomas. Raised in the slums of Chicago, Bigger takes a job as a chauffeur for a wealthy family. When he is put in a risky situation with the intoxicated daughter, Bigger panics and commits a crime. He is apprehended, and in prison he reflects on the circumstances that led to his fate.
International Journey to the Screen
Wright, a former Communist Party activist blacklisted by Hollywood, found acceptance in Paris and later Buenos Aires, where a producer offered Wright the opportunity to adapt the “unfilmable” novel to the screen. The director believed Wright would bring an extra pathos to Bigger Thomas and convinced Wright to accept the role. In 1950 the filmmakers set about adapting the harrowing tale, with Buenos Aires standing in for Chicago.
The story delved into deep-seated fears that Americans were not prepared to face, and when Native Son was released in the United States, the film was heavily censored.
This new digital restoration, from rediscovered original materials, includes an introduction by Turner Classic Movies hosts Eddie Muller and Jacqueline Stewart. In Muller’s words, “Native Son is genuine noir ... an essential and previously missing link in mid-20th-century cinema.”
Underwriting for the Film Department is provided by Tenaris and the Vaughn Foundation. Generous funding is provided by Nina and Michael Zilkha; The Consulate General of the Republic of Korea; Franci Neely; Carrin Patman and Jim Derrick; Lynn S. Wyatt; ILEX Foundation; L’Alliance Française de Houston; and The Foundation for Independent Media Arts.