Film Society KC and the Alamo Drafthouse Kansas City celebrate Black History Month with the landmark and controversial adaption of Alice Walker's novel, THE COLOR PURPLE. See the Steven-Spielberg directed film in its theatrical presentation. Reserve your ticket by visiting this link.
ABOUT THE FILM
After Alice Walker's 1982 novel THE COLOR PURPLE won both the National Book Award for fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, it was all but certain it would be brought to the screen. Even so, many were startled when Steven Spielberg was announced as the director.
At this point in his career, Spielberg was best known for JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL. Walker's story of growing up in the early 20th-century South, with its themes of domestic violence, broken families, racism and sexual self-realization, hardly seemed suited to the director's style. When the film was released in late 1985, it divided the critics, with some hailing it as a masterpiece and others condemning Spielberg for watering down or soft-pedaling the tougher themes of Walker's work (particularly its abused heroine finding solace in a lesbian relationship). "Mr. Spielberg has looked on the sunny side of Miss Walker's novel, fashioning a grand, multi-hanky entertainment that is as pretty and lavish as the book is plain," griped Janet Maslin of The New York Times. "If the book is set in the harsh, impoverished atmosphere of rural Georgia, the movie unfolds in a cozy, comfortable, flower-filled wonderland." Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun Times disagreed, hailing it as "the year's best film."
The movie was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, but lost in every category. However, it was a major success with moviegoers, who were enthralled by then-newcomer Whoopi Goldberg's portrayal of Celie, a young woman who finds her own identity and purpose in life after years of suffering at the hostile hands of a husband (Danny Glover) who treats her like a servant. The movie also brought attention to Oprah Winfrey, who was cast as the defiant Sofia. In 1985 Winfrey was still something of an unknown outside of Chicago and had yet to launch her talk show on a national scale. Goldberg and Winfrey were both Oscar-nominated, as was Margaret Avery, playing the saucy singer who helps Celie discover her inner strength.
Curiously, while Spielberg won the Directors Guild of America award, he was not nominated for an Academy Award. But the popularity of THE COLOR PURPLE prompted Spielberg to continue to broaden his horizons as a filmmaker: SCHINDLER'S LIST and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN -- both of which would bring him best director Oscars -- were not far away. (James Sanford)