Claudine (1974)

claudine poster 1974 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Smart and different than the blaxploitation films being released at the time


Movie Info

Movie Name: Claudine

Studio:  Third World Cinema

Genre(s):  Comedy/Drama/Romance

Release Date(s): March 30, 1974 (USA Film Festival)/April 22, 1974

MPAA Rating:  PG

claudine james earl jones diahann carroll

I feel I’m being judged…

Claudine Price (Diahann Carroll) is a single mother with six children living on welfare in Harlem while secretly picking up side-jobs for extra cash. Her son Charles (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) is getting involved in militant protest groups against Claudine’s wishes and her daughter Charlene (Tamu Blackwell) could be headed down the same path that Claudine took as a teen. When Claudine meets a charming garbage man named Rupert “Roop” Marshall (James Earl Jones) that insists on taking her out, Roop discovers he might not know what he is getting into and the problems Claudine is facing could be compounded with Roop’s problems…does Roop have the willpower to stick it out?

Directed by John Berry, Claudine is a romantic comedy drama. The film was well received, and Diahann Carroll was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #1052).

I love movies from the period that Claudine is set. There is a grittiness to them that many modern movies have tried to emulate and few have achieved. Claudine is an anomaly for the time in which blaxploitation was the ruling box office opportunity for African-American performers, and it is a nice contrast.

claudine welfare lady eliza loti diahann carroll

Here comes the welfare lady…hide the stuff!

What is good about Claudine is that despite not being blaxploitation, it doesn’t shy away from social issues facing many African-Americans at the time (and sadly still talked about today). There is the catch-22 of welfare (if you make just a bit too much, you lose it and even though you are working, you aren’t making enough and could lose your children), a look at absent fathers, and the general unfairness of a person having their life monitored and judged by people who cannot connect to their problems. This is woven into an unconventional love story and mixes in a lot of humor.

Diahann Carroll wasn’t the natural choice for a “welfare mother” when the movie was released, but she dove into the role by tapping into her past. The role was originally intended for Diana Sands who had to leave the production due to cancer and passed away shortly after the movie began. James Earl Jones eats up his role as Roop, and he presents him honestly…he has his issues, but he genuinely tries to connect with the kids who are being outwardly hostile to him. Both Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Tamu Blackwell score as the oldest of Claudine’s children and Elisa Loti is also fun (and frustrating) as the “welfare lady”.

claudine diahann carroll lawrence hilton jacobs

You did what?!?!

The movie is set in New York, and it feels like the New York that no longer exists. While areas up around Harlem still are affordable in comparison to other boroughs of New York, the 1970s Harlem was a lot rougher than today…but the movie makes a point not to really stress that part of the film. This is the characters’ home and they aren’t living in fear or completely hating it (though they might hate their actual living situation).

Claudine is a solid, nice change to a lot of the movies you see from 1970s starring African-American actors. It is a shame that Hollywood did not invest in more films like Claudine which had its own fair share of social issues and instead opted for the more financially successful moneymaking blaxploitation genre. If films like Claudine had been continued to be groomed and cultivated, the make-up of Hollywood from 1974 to modern day might have changed for the better…and hopefully someday it will.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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