Review: The World, The Flesh, and The Devil (1959)

Director: Ranald MacDougall

Starring: Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens, Mel Ferrer

Release Date: 20th My 1959 (US)

The recent publicity for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) provoked discontent from various corners of the internet when a clip from the film showed an Imperial Stormtrooper remove his white protective helmet to reveal – gasp! – a black man, later named Finn, as played by British actor John Boyega. Doubtless many science fiction fans raised a weary eyebrow at this ‘controversy’, recalling the similar furor surrounding the 1956 comic strip ‘Judgment Day,’ published in #33 of Incredible Science Fiction. This told the story of an astronaut visiting a planet of robots where a form of apartheid ensures one set of robots possess greater social rights than the other. In the last panel, the astronaut despairs that this mechanical world will never gain admission to the Galactic Republic, removes his space helmet and – gasp! – he is a black man. The blackness of space it seems, has long given those without the wherewithal to look beyond their own patch of sky a great deal of trouble.

Despite the past’s hopes for the future, the problem of race and Hollywood isn’t going away anytime soon. As I write, the actor Will Smith (star of 2007’s I Am Legend, which bears similarities to this week’s film) has announced he intends to join the boycott of this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, just one of a huge number of performers, writers and fans unhappy at the ‘whiteout’ of prestigious categories. Hardly a new phenomenon; despite Hattie McDaniel’s triumph as Best Supporting Actress for Gone With The Wind (1939), those gold statuettes have evaded black hands with dreary predictability all through the awards’ history.

For decades, the reason people of color weren’t nominated was because so few made it onto the silver screen in the first place. Last week, we looked at Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), nominated for four Oscars, in many ways as realistic a war film as one could expect for the time, apart from one important aspect: although including soldiers of Italian, Greek and Jewish extraction, no black soldiers are seen, despite the vast numbers of brave Afro-American soldiers who played their part in the fight against fascism. Black actors, such as Manton Moreland and Sammy Morrison, were restricted to B-film comedies and horrors, far below the radar of the Academy Awards, and it would take Hollywood until the 1960s to begin to approach the subject of America’s awful history of race relation issues, thanks to the breakthrough made by John Cassavetes’ Shadows (1959), while the 1970s saw the advent of blaxploitation films which although often cheaply made, at least gave black film-makers an onscreen presence.

The weight then upon the few black box office names in the 1950s was onerous indeed. Black singers, who brought with them an audience appeal split across whites and blacks, such as Sammy Davis Jnr, or the various black performers in The Girl Can’t Help It (1956), generally fared better than ‘regular’ black actors. One such singer was Harry Belafonte, politically active and adept at turning his hand to acting. Famed in the 1950s for his calypso songs (his 1956 album Calypso sold a million copies in a year in both the US and the UK), Belafonte made his film debut in Bright Road (1953) and followed this in 1954 by appearing in Otto Preminger’s successful musical Carmen Jones. By 1959, Belafonte was looking for a more politically substantial film which, in the words of Judith E Smith, author of Becoming Belafonte: Black Artist, Public Radical (2014), “would parallel his musical repertoire in representing black people as resisting world citizens who trespassed racial and national boundaries.”

It’s notable then the film Belafonte should hitch his proverbial wagon to was one he signed up for without reading the full script. The premise proved irresistible: a black man and a white woman are the sole survivors of a global holocaust and play out a romance of sorts until a white guy shows up to crash the party. Unlike William Gaines (publisher of Incredible Science Fiction), J J Abrams or Gene Rodenberry, who as the driving force behind Star Trek oversaw US TV’s first interracial kiss, the makers of The World, The Flesh, and The Devil, lacked the courage of their convictions and produced a film which pleased many yet satisfied few.

Belafonte plays Ralph Burton, a coal miner in Pennsylvania, conducting a safety check on an abandoned tunnel. The tunnel is leaking water; “if anything ever went wrong down here – ” starts Ralph, bringing the curse of the movie gods down upon him, not to mention the tunnel roof and several stout timbers.

Ralph makes it back to the tunnel entrance, where the collapse has damaged the telephone, his only contact with workers on the surface. Although Ralph can’t hear the outside world, they can hear him, and send assistance. The fault with the telephone is a clever contrivance to allow Ralph to talk aloud for the benefit of the viewer, without indulging the hoary old cliche of a character talking to themselves for no good dramatic reason.

Five days later, and the rescue team are still picking their way towards Ralph. With only the sound of digging and the ominous noise of the water pump for company, Ralph is developing cabin fever and using a rock, beats out a tune and improvises lyrics: “I don’t like it here / nobody likes it here / the food’s gone moldy / and I’m getting oldie / nobody likes it here.” It’s not exactly ‘The Banana Boat Song’, but it keeps Ralph amused and gives us a hint of Belafonte’s wonderful voice. Suddenly, the electric lights falter and go out; the water pump slows, then stops; the sound of the diggers slowly ceases.

Panicking, Ralph demolishes the closed tunnel entrance and scrambles his way through rockfalls and treacherous pools to a shaft leading up to the surface. Scaling the shaft’s ladders, Ralph reaches the outside world, crying “I’m out, I’m out!” Yet there is nobody around to hear him.

Noticing a coal fire, Ralph rushes to the mine’s main office to raise the alarm. The office is deserted and there’s no-one on the other end of the office telephone. Radios produce only static. Bewildered, Ralph picks up a copy of the Chatsburg Herald: “UN RETALIATES FOR USE OF ATOMIC POISON” runs the headline; “World Doomed States Dying President.” The following day’s paper (hats off to the can-do paperboy still at his duties at this stage of events) is even less promising: “MILLIONS FLEE FROM CITIES! END OF THE WORLD.” Boy, talk about a bad news day. If ever a government wanted to bury that uncomfortable report about delaying interstate bridge repairs due to budget cutbacks, today’s their chance.

The litter-blown streets of Chatsburg are empty save for abandoned cars. Ralph finds no-one at his apartment block; the grocery store windows are smashed; notices read ‘Looters Will Be Shot.’ Finding his way to a Civil Defense HQ, Ralph picks up a gun and a geiger counter, before bagging himself a nice new auto at a salesroom and setting course for New York.

Still yet to see a single soul, or even a body, Ralph arrives at the George Washington bridge and a chilling sight – the bridge is choked with empty cars, taxis, and trucks all headed out of the city. A similar scene is found at the Lincoln Tunnel, its roads hopelessly clogged with abandoned vehicles, mute evidence to whatever terrible event overtook the country and took its people with it. A road sign reads ‘Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow,’ but it looks like tomorrow just got cancelled.

The docks are also deserted, and Ralph walks along a jetty to a shack, the Statue of Liberty framed in the distance by its bare beams. Ralph takes a motorboat across to Manhattan, and no he doesn’t sing ‘Old Man River,’ that was Paul Robeson, not Harry Belafonte, you RACIST.

Ralph wanders through Wall Street and finds himself at the foot of the Empire State Building, looming over him like some colossal tombstone. “I’m Ralph Burton,” he cries, “I’m alive!” but New York is even more indifferent to one person’s existence than normal. Arriving at a church, Ralph staggers to the altar, gestures pathetically towards the desolation and collapses to the ground in tears. These sequences are excellently directed by Ranald McDougall, who fills the city with a stark, pitiless beauty, a metropolis haunted by five million ghosts and one living man. A neat touch comes as Ralph rings the church bell hoping to attract attention; the stone lions outside the church are intercut to seem as if they’re one lion awaking from sleep, reminiscent of the stone lions of Battleship Potemkin (1925), waking to the horror of the Czarist massacre upon the Odessa Steps.

We all need time to adapt to a new routine, and the last man alive is no exception. Dragging a squeaky wooden trailer full of supplies behind him, Ralph pounds the streets of New York. “Why y’all hiding from me?” he shouts. “I can feel you all staring at me!” Guessing that the coffee at the Horn & Hardart Automat isn’t so fresh today, Ralph prepares a meal, building a fire in the middle of the street then tidying things away into a litterbin in a touching, if rather pointless, display of civic duty.

The studios of radio station WKYL offer Ralph hope of finding out what went so wrong. A playback of the station news bureau’s last recordings give an account of men realizing they’ve only a short time to live as the major cities of the world – London, Rio de Janeiro, Calcutta – one by one fall silent. A doomed newscaster informs the few left of what caused the holocaust: a walk-out from the UN was followed by an unknown nation activating “radioactive sodium isotopes with a half-life of 53 hours,” creating a “deadly dust” spreading through the upper atmosphere. The dust will remain lethal for five days and there is no possible escape, with those fleeing the cities merely delaying the inevitable. After giving this report, the voice asks “what should I do, Frank? Keep reading? Frank? Frank? Is anybody there? Anybody?” This voice then also falls away. Bringing to mind the 1938 Orson Welles production of War of the Worlds, TWTFATD conjures up Armageddon with just a few human voices.

With one direction as good, or as bad, as another, Ralph flips a coin to decide where to head next, leaving the coin on the sidewalk as he walks away. A female pair of feet enter the shot, and follow Ralph…

Rather like a penniless man who won the lottery a month ago and still buys clothes at the thrift store, it takes Ralph a while to realize he can do whatever he pleases, and it’s only when the weather turns nasty that Ralph takes shelter in a swanky apartment block, and makes himself comfortable. A shopping expedition sees Ralph bring back food and metalwork equipment, and two mannequins he names Betsy and Snodgrass. Ralph talks to the mannequins for company as he gets busy with an acetylene torch (I’m sure it’s very unsafe to use one to light a cigarette). I don’t see the problem; some of my favorite friends are objects, and the most entertaining conversations I’ve had have been with myself. In fact, if it wasn’t for my friend Mr HappyHat the Invisible Plesiosaur, I’d probably go QUITE MAD.

Ralph rigs up some lights outside the apartment block, switches on the generator, and gets himself some sweet sweet electricity. The woman, a slight blonde-haired figure, watches this from the street corner, put off the idea of making contact by Ralph clowning around with his shadow, as if using himself as a shadow puppet, as no-one likes a shadow puppet show-off.

Some time later, and Ralph has put together a pretty neat man-cave, complete with an elevated electric train set winding itself around the apartment. Strumming a guitar, Ralph sings ‘Gotta Travel On’ to himself, with an eye to the film’s soundtrack album. Tired of Snodgrass’s constant smile, Ralph has it out with the mannequin, another interesting device allowing us access to the miner’s state of mind: “even if you could see me, you wouldn’t care…I’m lonely, sick at heart…you’ve laughed at me too often.” Ralph throws Snodgrass off the balcony, the dummy crashes to the ground – and a woman screams.

Ralph looks and sees the blonde woman in the street, standing over the broken mannequin. Rushing outside, Ralph finds the young woman who explains she feared Ralph had committed suicide (“I felt as if I’d died again”). Ralph reaches out to her, but she pulls away: “Don’t touch me.” “That’s good,” replies Ralph. “Two people left alive in the world, and you say ‘don’t touch me.'” Sounds like Ralph has the same luck with women as myself, and I speak as someone who’s often heard the words ‘not if you were the last man in the world.’

The woman introduces herself as Sarah Crandall (Inger Stevens) and has watched Ralph at a distance for some weeks, fearing contact in case he was crazy. Sarah survived the disaster in a decompression chamber with two men who left after only a couple of days, and so perished in the lingering isotope cloud. TWTFATD is unclear as to how victims of the cloud die; the ‘dying President’ headline, among other clues, suggest the death is comparatively slow, yet the lack of bodies indicate something more catastrophic like a neutron bomb, unless the isotope cloud also causes the bodies to rapidly decompose after death. Sarah adds she lives not far away and runs back home, saying she’ll return: “I need you, Ralph Burton.”

Ralph is quite the handyman, connecting Sarah’s place to the generator, and installing shortwave radios in his apartment in the hope of contacting fellow survivors. Over lunch one afternoon, Sarah ventures the idea of moving into Ralph’s apartment block. “No,” replies Ralph. “People would talk.” Ralph then does the washing-up by the expedient method of throwing the plates out of the window. One of the criticisms leveled at TWTFATD is of the characters’ curious insistence on maintaining the color barrier, even after society as they know it has disappeared, or as Judith E Smith puts it, “the racial logic of the narrative flirts with crossing but then decisively maintains the color line.” Even stranger, it’s Ralph who’s most preoccupied with continuing this discrimination. Perhaps it’s a case of Ralph coping with the unknowns of the new world by keeping up the habits of the old, though it’s more likely a case of the film-makers attempting to placate a white audience by annoying their black audience, fearing if Sarah and Ralph swiftly developed a passionate romance, riots might break out in cinemas across the land. As it is, Ralph’s actions appear that of a man deeply set in his ways, even if those ways work against him.

Regarding the more immediate problem of Ralph’s profligate attitude towards crockery, Sarah points out the water pressure is unaffected, and you can do the washing-up in a more sensible fashion. Ralph expresses surprise, to which Sarah responds “so you’re not perfect after all? I was beginning to think you were Superman.” This raises the issue of how TWTFATD portrays Ralph, a miner who also doubles as an electrician, metalworker, radio ham, singer, guitarist, art collector and general Mr Fix-it. It’s a phenomenon peculiar to Hollywood films of this time that when they do feature a black character, a perverse form of racism kicks in making that character too good to be true – whiter than white, you could say. I hesitate to say Hollywood felt guilty about racism in American society, as Hollywood is incapable of guilt, but it’s as if the movie industry felt the need to make up for this societal ill by presenting its rare black characters as ideal citizens without a flaw to their nature (a similar criticism was leveled at NBC’s later sitcom Julia, starring another black singer, Diahann Carroll). Ralph does come across at time as the ‘competent man’ stock character and Sarah’s anger at his ‘perfection’ may make her an audience representative figure, perhaps getting in the criticism before the critics.

Sarah feels entitled to an argument: “I’m free, white, and twenty-one,” she rails, demanding to know why Ralph is collecting piles of books in the apartment; the library has become flooded, he explains. “Yes, I know,” snipes Sarah, “everything’s getting rusty – including me.” With sadness, Sarah realizes she will never get married now. Ralph promises to find someone for Sarah through the power of shortwave radio. “We’re alive,” says Ralph, “others must have survived. We’re monuments.” Sarah pulls at her hair. “This monument needs a haircut.” Ralph, with reluctance, agrees to cut Sarah’s hair and so we come to TWTFATD‘s most peculiar scene.

After much prevarication, Ralph cuts Sarah’s hair, and by cut I mean hack. Sarah’s lets out short, almost sexual, gasps of shock during what is the first of only two times the pair make physical contact during the film. Ralph’s anger increases as the paucity of his barber skills becomes apparent. Refusing to cut further, Ralph makes to leave and Sarah reminds him “they are alone in the world and have to take things from there.” Ralph plays dumb, but Sarah adds “I know what you are, if that’s what you’re trying to remind me,” provoking Ralph into an angry discourse upon racial semantics: “if you’re squeamish about words, I’m colored. If you face facts, I’m a negro. If you’re a polite Southerner, I’m a negre, and I’m a n***** if you’re not.” This is perhaps Belafonte’s best scene as he conveys the frustration and dignified anger of a man aware Sarah wouldn’t know or care if was “a fine, decent man,” in the old world. Sarah, numbed, remarks “you haven’t mentioned anything about love.” Ralph leaves, and three days pass before the two meet again.

When they do meet, it’s on Sarah’s birthday. Driving back into town after searching for signs of life in Albany (insert your own joke here), Ralph presents Sarah with her birthday presents: a diamond from Harry Winston Inc. wrapped up in a personalized edition of the New York Times. Hey, you’re making the rest of us guys look bad, Ralph buddy. You’re setting the bar too damn high!

Back in the radio room, Ralph is blowing up balloons for Sarah’s party as his recorded message beams out across the world – only this time, he gets a reply. A male voice answers back in French, meaning Ralph and the caller can’t understand each other. The incoming message fades, and Ralph tells them to call again “and thank God for hearing you.” At first jubilant, Ralph reconsiders – and bursts one of the balloons.

The Oasis nightclub is the venue for a gala evening to celebrate Sarah’s birthday. Man, if you’re going to do the end of the world, this is the way to do it, booze it up and worry about the speeches and moral quandaries later. Music is provided by Mr Ralph Burton, who has recorded himself singing ‘Fifteen’ (I hope this doesn’t refer to someone’s age), so add another score to the soundtrack. Mr Ralph Buzzkill isn’t far away though, for when Sarah asks for the singer to sit at her table, Ralph responds “Mr Burton isn’t permitted to sit with the customers.” It’s unclear as to whether Ralph is punishing Sarah for the crimes of the white race, or whether Ralph is tormenting to prolong the way of life just passed. Either way, Sarah refuses the meal Ralph has prepared, with the desert a seriously schlonky looking cake.

Ralph tells Sarah about the radio message: “civilization is back…you know it makes a difference, Miss Crandell.” Sarah walks out, angry at the implication she’s prepared to get in on with the entire male population of the world: “I have pride too, you know.” Ralph is left alone as his song ends, the recorded applause an ironic self-mockery.

The end of the world doesn’t mean an end to washing day, and Ralph is hanging up his socks to dry when he receives a phone call from an excited Sarah. A boat is slowly chugging its way up the East River, under its own power. New York has company coming!

Ralph and Sarah await with eagerness at the harbor to meet the new arrival. Introducing seafarer Ben Thacker (Mel Ferrer), “the total population of the southern hemisphere.” Ben explains he’s traveled alone for six months, with Ralph and Sarah the first people he’s seen in that time, only for Ben to collapse with sickness. TWTFATD doesn’t explain how Ben survived the disaster and doesn’t think it needs to explain, given its mind is on higher matters. The film’s title for example, refers to the three traditional temptations facing each Christian: Ralph is The World, Sarah is The Flesh and Ben – well, he’s the Devil, although not entirely the racist ogre reviewers have made out in the past.

A week later, Ben comes round in bed and is soon asking Sarah as to living arrangements. Sarah explains she and Ralph live in separate buildings: “I’ve a place of my own. I’d like to move in, but he won’t let me.” There’s much flirtatious laughter as Sarah attempts to shave off Ben’s beard (attagirl, we’ll have no hipsters after the holocaust), causing Ralph to check in on the pair. Ralph tells Ben about the French radio broadcast, only there’s been no further communication since. The two men regard each other as Ralph decides he’ll stay for lunch today…

With Ben recovered, he and Sarah set off for a picnic; they invite Ralph, but he’s more interested in adding to his art collection. “I get the impression he’s leaving us alone together,” observes Ben. Once he and Sarah find a nice spot, they talk of the past, until Ben makes an observation: “why do you never look at me when I talk? Are you afraid you’ll see something unsaid in my eyes?” Sarah diverts Ben by asking if he were married. “A wife and two kids,” comes the reply. “We lived in Sutton Place. I was there yesterday. I didn’t find them, thank God.” Well, there’s a statement that poses a few questions: six months before you get round to checking on your own family? How far away was Ben from home, and why? Were his kids really that awful? When Ben remarks to Sarah, “we’ll have to discuss that one day – you and I,” we know he isn’t talking about the former Mrs Thacker. “You and I and Ralph,” affirms Sarah. Already, we fear Ralph doesn’t show up too strongly on Ben’s moral radar.

Movie night at Ralph’s, only there’s no main feature, supporting feature or even a Bugs Bunny cartoon, only newsreels. This particular one shows the explosion of a failed rocket launch, followed by various beach bunnies preparing for the forthcoming Miss World contest. Ralph considers the newsreel irrelevant, yet it’s possible to view it as pertaining to current circumstances – a technological disaster followed by a competition for the fittest flesh.

Sarah leaves the room and so Ralph and Ben talk business, meaning who gets to make babies with Sarah. As far as Ralph is concerned, “I won’t get in your way. I won’t get out of your way either.” By way of reply, Ben prods Ralph with his walking stick to inform him “I’ve got nothing against Negroes, Ralph.” Ben’s one of those liberal guys who can’t admit they’re capable of racism, forever one step away from declaring some of their best friends are black, or as Ralph points out, “that’s white of you.” Ben turns the ‘problem’ into one of mathematics: “there’s two of us and one of her.” Sarah overhears and to no-one’s surprise except every man left on Earth, objects to being bartered over like cattle, and departs.

Ben catches up with Sarah. “We’re facing something important here,” he tells her, and the pair kiss, with Sarah murmuring “make love, make love,” only to run for cover when Ben gets too enthusiastic for her comfort. Looks like saving humankind is going to need to wait awhile.

Ralph’s retreated to his radio room, where he’s picking up faint signals from either “Europe or South America,” so that narrows it down a bit. In another moment of biblical symbolism, Sarah brings Ralph a branch of tree bloom, just as a dove returned to Noah’s ark with an olive leaf – a sign life is returning to the world. Ralph doesn’t see the more overt symbolism of the offering, of romantic love from Sarah. Two weeks have passed since they last talked and Sarah is frustrated with Ralph’s stubborn observance of the status quo. “Ben’s asked me to move in with him,” says Sarah, adding “one day, someone will ask me what I want.” “It won’t be me,” says Ralph.

Later, Ben and Sarah are enjoying an evening soiree when the lights waver. Ralph, ever one to evade domesticity through tinkering, is playing around with the generator. “You thought something had happened to him, didn’t you?” notes Ben. Deciding the time has come for the direct approach with Sarah, Ben states “me man, you a girl, how about it?” This meets with the same success it would in real life and so Ben goes for the even more direct approach: “I could force you. You want that?” Yeah, if the Tarzan gambit fails, it’s always a good idea to suggest rape as a way forward. “It’d make up my mind,” says Sarah with remarkable restraint. “I’m sick of both of you. Ralph doesn’t know what he wants, and you don’t think of anything else.” “I’ll decide for you,” Ben tells her.

Ben confronts Ralph in his apartment. “You pretend to be noble, pretend to leave us alone together. All the time you’re at my elbow, laughing at me, plotting.” Refusing Ben’s kind offer to make for Chicago or San Francisco, Ralph is thrown a gun. “World War Four,” as Ralph observes, is set to begin at any moment.

Sarah rings Ralph in a panic, asking him to come over. As soon as Ralph steps foot outside, Ben fires upon him from the rooftops. Ralph arms himself with a rifle from a nearby sports shop, keeping to the streets while Ben patrols the rooftops (all I can say is Mel Ferrer has a better head for heights than myself, the way he trots along the edge of various tall buildings is enough to induce vertigo in Philippe Petit).

Passing through Times Square (no 1970s sci-fi movie book was complete without a publicity shot of Harry Belafonte wielding a rifle before a background of Life Magazine and Admiral Television Appliances billboards), Ralph arrives at the UN Building via Ralph Bunche Park, and reads an inscription, taken from Isiah 2 3:4: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Ralph throws down his rifle.

Ben meanwhile is still bellowing challenges to his enemy, and they confront each other in some anonymous side-street. “It’s all over, Ben,” says Ralph, who refuses to fight any longer. Ben threatens Ralph with his rife, but cannot shoot, and casts his gun to the ground. Sarah arrives, just as Ralph announces his intention to leave New York, “to save things.” “You can’t go,” Sarah tells him, offering her hand. Ralph accepts her hand – and so does Ben. The three walk off together as a caption announces “THE BEGINNING.”

Be it a beginning or an ending, the final scene left many contemporary critics unsatisfied, a result of the director and producer’s uncertainty as to how to please as much of their audience as possible, fearing trouble should they end TWTFATD with Ralph pairing off with Sarah. As the old adage goes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, though modern audiences, more sexually liberated than their 1959 counterparts, are more sympathetic of the idea of a family unit consisting of two men and one woman. John Brosnan in his 1991 book The Primal Screen “a rare movie example of rationalism winning out over human nature…quite subversive for its time,” while in 1999’s Millennium Movies: End of the World Cinema, Kim Newman remarks the three characters “sort out their racial and sexual differences, and invent a new kind of family unit.”

As for the question of race, TWTFATD approaches the subject as close as it dares before darting away again. Ralph clings to a form of identity he no longer needs, rather like a man avoiding a fight by punching himself in the face. Yet both Ralph and Ben, whose racism is understated more due to the movie convention of the day rather than character development (1950s Hollywood didn’t so much as duck the issue as to feign ignorance as to its existence), are guilty of a force just as prevalent as racism – misogyny. The two men take for granted Sarah will wish to pair off with one of them, and so get the re-population of the world underway, though at least Sarah is allowed to object to this blithe assumption.

Belafonte carries the early parts of the film well, and holds his own once Inger Stevens arrives on the scene, yet as soon as Mel Ferrer chugs into New York, it’s as if Belafonte feels crowded out during the subsequent group scenes. Belafonte also lacks the professional actor’s ability, as demonstrated by both Stevens and Ferrer, to make awkward lines of dialogue work, or seem comfortable within their own character. On the whole though, Belafonte fares well and puts in a credible performance.

TWTFATD conducts itself with grace, but in aiming for dignity and intelligence the film falls short, and it falls shorter the longer the film progresses. The ending is indicative of a film which over-imagines its effect on the audience and TWTFATD would have been better served had it considered viewers as humans, rather than blacks and whites. While TWTFATD contains moments of power, it is this irony which ultimately weakens the film’s noble intentions.






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