The Movie That Went All the Way To the Supreme Court

by Becky 14. October 2010 14:45

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According to Amazon: "Pinky (Jeanne Crain) a black woman who works as a nurse in Boston, finds she able to "pass for white." Afraid her heritage will be discovered, she leaves her white fiance (William Lundigan) and returns home to Mississippi. There, she helps her ailing grandmother (Ethal Waters) by caring for her employer (Ethel Barrymore), an important plantation owner. When she names Pinky heiress to her estate, the community rises in resentment, triggering a sensational court trial."

From Wikipedia: "Because of its subject matter, Pinky was a controversial movie, and was even banned by the city of Marshall, Texas, where W. L. Gelling managed the Paramount Theater, a segregated theater in which African-Americans sat in the balcony. Gelling booked Pinky for exhibition in February 1950. In 1950, the First Amendment did not protect movies (Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio). The City Commission of Marshall “reactivated” the Board of Censors, established by a 1921 ordinance, and designated five new members who demanded the submission of the picture for approval. The Board disapproved its showing, stating in writing its “unanimous opinion that the said film is prejudicial to the best interests of the citizens of the City of Marshall.” Gelling nonetheless exhibited the film and was charged with a misdemeanor. Three members of the Board of Censors testified that they objected to the picture because it depicts (1) a white man retaining his love for a woman after learning that she is a Negro, (2) a white man kissing and embracing a Negro woman, (3) two white ruffians assaulting Pinky after she has told them she is colored. Gelling was convicted and fined $200. He appealed the conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. After Gelling filed his appeal, the Court decided the landmark free speech case of Joseph Burstyn, Inc v. Wilson that extended First Amendment protection to films. The Court then overturned Gelling’s conviction."

"Pinky was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jeanne Crain), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Ethel Barrymore) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Ethel Waters)." (Source: Wikipedia)

Available in the law library for check out.


"Gelling v. State of Texas, 343 U.S. 960 (1952)" (http;//

Wikipedia: Pinky (film)


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