Cinema: Uncle Tomfoolery

Gone Are the Days! Sometimes a fellow needs long legs to keep up with the march of time. Take Ossie Davis, the Negro playwright who wrote Purlie Victorious, a comedy about civil wrongs and a Negro who tries to right them. In 1961 his play read like a rousing Rights-of-Manifesto and became a long-run hit on Broadway. But times have changed. Spoken almost word for word from the screen, the same text now seems tame in its protest and dated in its terms—at times one almost wonders if the actors are in blackface. But in one sense the de fect is...

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