In honor of Black History Month, we will take a look back at significant, rarely-seen Black films that we think deserve to be re-introduced to contemporary audiences. Today’s film is the 1959 coming-of-age drama, Take A Giant Step.
Hollywood has a checkered history with race in film and this film is further proof that they continued to struggle with the complex issue toward the end of the 1950s. Take A Giant Step focuses on a black teenager living in a predominantly white environment and having trouble coping as he reaches an age at which the realities of racism are beginning to affect his life more directly and pointedly than they had in his childhood.
Adapted from the Broadway play by Louis S. Peterson, the film stars Johnny Nash, who would ultimately become more well known for his singing career, including the hit song “I Can See Clearly Now”, as the lead character, Spencer “Spence” Scott. Co-stars included Ruby Dee as the Scott family’s housekeeper, Estelle Hemsley as Grandma Martin (Hemsley was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actress), and Beah Richards as Spence’s mother.
Directed by Philip Leacock and executive produced by Burt Lancaster, the film was a risky proposition for the studio.Once the film wrapped, United Artists had difficulty distributing it due to objections over its content. The film’s full release was delayed into the middle of 1960, as it was re-edited and censored.
The end result is a film that is remembered as Nash’s acting debut and the solid performance of a young Dee, whose career would span the 50 years.
Watch the film by accessing the links below: