An old film I previously published an inquiry about on this blog (3 years ago), titled “One Potato, Two Potato,” has been revived! And if you’re in New York, you can see it on the big screen, beginning Friday October 21, at the Metrograph theater, where it will be presented in 35mm for a one-week revival run.
The black and white movie is centered on the relationship between a white Midwestern woman, in 1964 Ohio, and the black man she remarries, after her white husband leaves her and their young daughter. When her ex-husband discovers that she’s married a black man, he fights her for custody of the child.
The film screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1964, where it was reportedly met with silence from the attending audience, who were apparently speechless because they were emotionally drained.
Barbara Barrie, who won the Cannes award for Best Actress that year, stars in the film, alongside Bernie Hamilton (who plays the black man she remarries), Richard Mulligan and Robert Earl Jones (James Earl Jones’ father).
Bernie Hamilton would go on to co-star in many more films after “One Potato, Two Potato,” as well as TV shows, into the 1980s. He died in 2008.
The film was directed on what is said to have been a shoestring budget, by Larry Peerce (his directorial debut), from a screenplay penned by Raphael Hayes and Orville H. Hampton, who were both nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 1965.
By all accounts, the film is still not available on any home video format – not on DVD, Blu-ray, or streaming). It doesn’t even appear to be on VHS. Surely, someone has the film on some home video format, old or current.
Of course I checked TCM (Turner Classic Movies), and the film has been broadcast on that channel a number of times over the years – according to their website anyway.
Considered a groundbreaking love story, the independent production (studios wouldn’t touch it at the time) was made in northeast Ohio, taking a delicate, compassionate approach to the reality of abandonment from friends and family unwilling to confront prejudice. Despite a best actress win for Barrie at Cannes, the US distributor (Cinema V) could not secure playdates in many cities across the USA, due to its subject matter, until a guest appearance by the director Larry Peerce on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” convinced more theaters to open the film.
Now, 50 years later, New Yorkers can take advantage of an opportunity to see it, and in a theatrical setting, for 1 week in late October. As for the rest of the country, let’s hope the print travels, or this revival will lead to an official home video release that will make it more accessible.
The below scene appears to be the tail end of the film – a highly emotional courtroom sequence in which the woman’s angry ex-husband charges that the child’s welfare is threatened by the environment created by her marriage to a black man. Watch the clip and then head over to the Metrograph’s website for more information on the revival release: