The Color Purple (1985)

Thirty-six yers ago today, the film The Color Purple premiered.

Title: The Color Purple
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones
Screenplay by: Menno Meyjes
Based on: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Starring: Danny Glover as Mister, Whoopi Goldberg as Celie, Desreta Jackson as Young Celie, Oprah Winfrey as Sofia, Margaret Avery as Shug Avery, Táta Vega as Shug’s singing voice, Akosua Busia as Nettie, Adolph Caesar as Old Mister, Mister’s father, Willard Pugh as Harpo, Rae Dawn Chong as Squeak, Laurence Fishburne as Swain, Carl Anderson as Reverend Samuel, Grand Bush as Randy, Dana Ivey as Ms. Millie, Bennet Guillory as Grady, James Tillis as Henry “Buster” Broadnax, Leonard Jackson as Pa, Celie and Nettie’s father, Gayle King (uncredited) as Churchgoer
Music: by Quincy Jones
Cinematography: Allen Daviau
Edited by: Michael Kahn
Production Company: Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date: December 18, 1985
Running time: 153 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $15 million
Box office: $142 million
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Whoopi Goldberg

Celie is an African-American teenager in early 20th century rural Georgia who has lost two children by her abusive father. He gives her away as a wife to Mister who also abuses her and his children treat her badly. Celie’s loving younger sister, Nettie, runs away from the abusive father and seeks shelter with Celie. The sisters promise to write if they are separated. Mister attempts to sexually assault Nettie and he kicks her out after she fights him off.

Years later, Celie is meek from abuse. Mister’s son Harpo marries Sofia, and Celie is shocked to find her running a matriarchal household. Harpo attempts to overpower and strike Sofia but he fails. Celie advises Harpo to beat Sofia. Sofia retaliates and confronts Celie, revealing her long history of abuse. She threatens to kill Harpo if he beats her again and tells Celie to do likewise to Mister. Harpo doesn’t change, so Sofia leaves and takes their children.

Mister and Harpo bring home the ailing Shug Avery, a showgirl and Mister’s long-time mistress. Celie, who has slowly developed a fondness for Shug through a photograph sent to Mister, is in awe of Shug’s strong will. She nurses Shug back to health, and Shug in turn takes a liking to her, writing and performing a song about her at Harpo’s newly opened bar. Shug tells Celie she’s moving to Memphis, and Celie confesses to Shug that Mister beats her. Shug tells Celie she’s beautiful and that she loves her, and they kiss. Celie packs her things to follow Shug to Memphis, but gets caught by Mister.

Meanwhile, Sofia has been imprisoned for striking the town’s mayor after he insults her. Years pass, and she, now a shell of her former self, is released from prison – only to be immediately ordered by the judge to become a maid to the mayor’s wife, Ms. Millie. Having not seen her children in eight years, Sofia is allotted Christmas to be with her family, and Ms. Millie tries to drive her but panics and turns around after encountering a group of Sofia’s friends, who were only trying to help her.

Shug returns to Celie and Mister’s home with her new husband, Grady, expecting to receive a recording contract. Shug gives Celie a letter from Nettie, who tells her that she’s working for a couple that has adopted Celie’s children. Celie and Shug realize that Mister has been hiding Nettie’s letters from Celie; while he and Grady are out drinking, the two search the house and find a hidden compartment under the floor boards filled with dozens and dozens of Nettie’s letters. Engrossed in reading, Celie does not hear Mister’s calls to shave him and he beats her. Celie attempts to kill Mister with a straight razor, but Shug intervenes and stops her. At a family gathering, Celie finally speaks up against Mister to the delight of Shug and Sofia, who finds her old fighting spirit, which prompts Harpo’s new wife, Squeak, to stand up for herself as well. Shug and Grady drive away, taking Celie and Squeak with them.

Years later, Celie owns and operates a tailor shop. Mister is old, a drunk, and alone, and Harpo has made amends with Sofia; the two now run the bar together, and Shug still performs there. Celie’s father passes away, and she finally learns from Nettie’s letters that he wasn’t their biological father and that when their mother passed, “his” property was legally inherited by Celie and Nettie. Mister receives a letter from Nettie addressed to Celie, takes money from his secret stash, and arranges for Nettie, her husband, and Celie’s children to return to the U.S., where they finally reunite while Mister watches from a distance.

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