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One of the most controversial novels of its day, Richard Wright’s NATIVE SON

(published in 1940) exposed the injustices of urban African American life, witnessed through the

eyes of Bigger Thomas, whose violent tendencies and moral confusion were the inevitable result

of generations of institutionalized racism. Kino Lorber presents a new restoration of the film,

presented in association with the Library of Congress, Fernando Martin Peña and Argentina

Sono Film. The film is preceded by a special filmed introduction by film historians Eddie Muller

(Film Noir Foundation) and Jacqueline Stewart (co-curator of Kino Lorber’s PIONEERS OF

AFRICAN AMERICAN CINEMA), courtesy of Turner Classic Movies.


Raised in the slums of Chicago, small-time hoodlum Bigger Thomas (Richard Wright) is

offered an opportunity for advancement when he is hired as chauffeur for the Daltons, a family

of wealthy liberals. While putting the intoxicated daughter Mary (Jean Wallace) to bed after an

evening of nightclubbing, Thomas is in a panic, fully realizing the impossible risk he has been

forced to take, and he accidentally suffocates her. He burns her body in a furnace to hide the

evidence and blames her disappearance on kidnappers. After confessing the crime to his

girlfriend Bessie (Gloria Madison), who encourages him to turn himself in to the police, Thomas

murders her and disposes of her body in an abandoned building. Bigger is inevitably

apprehended, jailed, and, despite the efforts of a Communist attorney (Don Dean), is sentenced

to die. Imprisoned and visited by his family, Thomas reflects on the circumstances that led to his

fate.


About the Restoration

When it was initially released in the U.S., NATIVE SON was heavily censored by regional

state/municipal censor boards where it played. A complete 16mm print of the original

Argentinian release version was located in 1999 by film archivist Fernando Martin Peña in

Buenos Aires. The Library of Congress subsequently located an incomplete 35mm duplicate

negative of the uncensored cut in Puerto Rico. These two elements were combined for the

current restoration, the most complete version of NATIVE SON ever shown in the United States.


Special thanks to Edgardo Krebs for his years of research into the making and recovery of

NATIVE SON, and for being a tireless champion of its restoration and re-release. NATIVE SON

is under license from Argentina Sono Film.

  • Year
    1951
  • Runtime
    108 minutes
  • Language
    English
  • Country
    Argentina
  • Director
    Pierre Chenal
  • Screenwriter
    Pierre Chenal - Richard Wright (novel)
  • Producer
    Walter Gould
  • Cast
    Richard Wright, Jean Wallace, Nicholas Joy, Gloria Madison
  • Cinematographer
    Antonio Merayo
  • Editor
    Jorge Gárate
  • Production Design
    Gori Muñoz
  • Sound Design
    Mario Fezia & Charles Marin
  • Music
    Juan Ehlert