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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sapphire (1959)

After the body of a brutally stabbed girl (Yvonne Buckingham) is discovered in a park, the investigation reveals that the victim, assumed to be Caucasian, was in fact, black. The two detectives (Nigel Patrick, Michael Craig) assigned to the case then find themselves dealing with racism of the English working class as well as prejudice in the black community in their attempt to find the killer. Ironically, in the same month (April) in 1959 that Sirk's melodramatic masterpiece IMITATION OF LIFE examined the tragic consequences of a black girl passing for white in the U.S., SAPPHIRE opened in Britain and looked at the deadly results of a black girl passing for white in England. Crudely effective, director Basil Dearden and screenwriter Janet Green shaped their analysis as a murder mystery and it's riveting. There's no delicacy in the film, the racism is shown full on without any whitewashing. The film itself is a near perfect example of combining a socially conscious film with a solid story that stands on its own as cinema. With Yvonne Mitchell, Paul Massie, Bernard Miles, Earl Cameron and Barbara Steele.

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