The first U.S film to deal seriously with interracial marriage (made three years before GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER came out) was this independent treasure shot in Painesville, Ohio. Director Larry Peerce’s debut feature stars Barbara Barrie as a divorcee who falls in love with a black co-worker (Bernie Hamilton). The two marry, only to have her runaway ex-husband (Richard Mulligan) return and sue for custody of his daughter. Peerce, the son of operatic tenor Jan Peerce, creates scenes so realistic they almost feel like eavesdropping. And he hardly shied away from the racial question. When Barrie and Hamilton walk home from a date, they’re stopped by a police officer who assumes that she’s a prostitute since she’s out with a black man. At the time the film was made, interracial marriage was still illegal in 14 states and Hollywood considered racial issues box-office poison. Even after ONE POTATO, TWO POTATO competed successfully at the Cannes Film Festival, where Barrie was named best actress, Peerce couldn’t get it released in the U.S. Finally, an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, during which he showed a film clip, attracted the notice of Cinema V, an art-house distributor. This is a rare screening for a film that was far ahead of its time.
(d. Larry Peerce, 83m, 35mm)