1950... America is divided between black and white. Schools, restaurants, trains and buses... even drinking fountains cannot be shared by both races. Although slavery has been outlawed for nearly a century, segregation is legal.
The dramatic events leading from a small rural classroom to the Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregation are powerfully reenacted in this screen classic, beautifully scripted and superbly portrayed by Hollywood's finest actors.
Color, Approx Running Time 193 minutes, Rated PG. Starring Sidney Poitier, Burt Lancaster, Richard Kiley, and Cleavon Little, Written and Directed by George Stevens, Jr.
One of the most pivotal moments in 20th century American history is bracingly dramatized in Separate but Equal. In telling the detailed story of the Supreme Court's 1953 decision to abolish racial segregation in schools, this superb 1991 TV movie covers a broad spectrum of issues, never taking its "eyes off the prize" while its first-rate cast conveys the importance of the Supreme Court's ultimately unanimous decision. It was the culmination of a lengthy, legally complex, and morally compelling struggle that began humbly in South Carolina in 1950, where future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (Sidney Poitier)--then a New York-based lawyer for the NAACP--fought on behalf of an underprivileged black community facing social injustice despite the 1896 decision (Plessy v. Ferguson) that promised "separate but equal" treatment in the wake of slavery's abolition. Both direction and script by George Stevens Jr. are utterly conventional, but with so much dignity and fine acting in the service of a noble undertaking (including Burt Lancaster's final performance, as opposing counsel John W. Davis), Separate but Equal achieves a lasting importance of its own. --Jeff Shannon