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Throwback Thursday FYC: Diahann Carroll in Claudine (1974)

The Film Experience time travels so consistently between the now, the future, the distant past and the recent past that Throwback Thursday, that grand internet tradition, hasn't meant much. But then I chanced upon this old FYC and a lightbulb appeared reflecting off my bald head "Throwback Thursday... The Oscar Campaigns"

Diahann Carroll in Claudine (1974)

click to enlarge

Diahann, deglamming to play a welfare mother in Harlem as MANY of the critical blurbs highlights, lost the Oscar to Ellen Burstyn in one of the all time greatest Best Actress rosters. The blurbs are interesting time capsules, both in the tell tale signs of 'this is still what people like for "bests" and in uniquely "holy hell" ways. Consider this provocative bit from the Gannett Syndicate:

...the first three dimensional portrait of a black woman."

I'm sure that Diana Ross and Cicely Tyson, both nominated two years prior would not approve! But it just goes to show you how deeply entrenched the problems were (and sadly still are) for actresses of color in terms of which films get made and what kind of roles are offered. The movies have made some progress, yes, but that we're still fighting this fight when we've got actresses as gifted as Viola, Lupita, Audra McDonaldAnikaAdepero, Kimberly Elise, and Emeyatzy Corinealdi available to us is, shall we say, maddening. 

Have you seen Claudine? Unfortunately it's on "very long wait" status at Netflix. (sigh)

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Reader Comments (17)

Having seen Claudine, I unfortunately can't discern that Carroll's great performance could elevate the otherwise shitty movie to anything more than something mediocre you can tolerate just once and then forget.
In any case, Claudine was available at youtube. Not sure if it's still there.

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly


May 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

those blurbs don't do much to indicate she was golden globe nominated for best actress...in a musical or comedy!

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Claudine is so so so wonderful! You are in for a treat, Nathaniel and it's worth the wait. Both Carroll and Jones are great in it. And 1974 was indeed an embarrassment of riches in Best Actress. It's second only to 1950 in my mind for Best Best Actress Roster.

Every time you mention this particular Oscar race you make me annoy you by reminding you that you should be praying at the altar of Gena Rowlands.

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

one of the greatest Best Actress Race...what a pity that Liv Ullmann was considered ineligible

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

Just watched this for the first time last week. So, so good. And James Earl Jones is playing against type and is (almost) equally as good as Carroll. A pity that she had to bow out of A Raisin in the Sun due to health.

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

Having watched all of the five performances nominated that year, I'm afraid that Carrol pales in comparison of the others. She's good, while the film is very mediocre.

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGabriel

Cal -- we'll discuss it eventaully. I actually own a John Cassavettes box set :)

May 22, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

This somewhat reminds me of how some critics felt about Halle Berry's turn in "Monster's Ball," on a surface level at least (a black actress known for her beauty and grace seemingly venturing out of her range).

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Everything is on "very long wait" status at Netflix now. Did they close some distribution centers or something?

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Kimberly Elise in For Colored Girls.

Still the best performance by a supporting actress this decade thus far.

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

I haven't! (still available on youtube).

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

How I love these vintage FYC posters

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercraver

I watched Claudine back in the early 80s when it ran on TV and I thought it was kind of cringe-worthy. Diahann Carroll was fine, so was James Earl Jones but the move was far from watchable. Having said that, I love the soundtrack by Gladys Knight and the Pips. I still have the record somewhere in my vinyl collection...songs like On & On, To be Invisible, etc were what I consider classic performances.

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJans

Nathaniel, if you're looking for another incredible Black actress to fall in love with, by all means check out last year's incredible Mother Of George, which features one hell of a performance from Danai Gurira.

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I think her nomination was well deserved. In 1975, I think she would have had a chance to win. Difficult decision: Burstyn, Rowlands, Dunaway and Carroll were all deserving nominees. Valerie Perrine belonged in Supporting.

May 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

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