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Ralph Ellison Movies & TV

Ralph Ellison: An American Journey (2002)

Ralph Ellison never allowed his masterpiece Invisible Man to be made into a film. The makers of this excellent documentary about Ellison's life are the first to film scenes from the book, which are interspersed with interviews about the writer. Ellison's widow approved the filming of the Invisible Man scenes only after the estate was granted permission to review the script.

King of the Bingo Game (1999)

This movie focuses on Sonny, an impoverished black man who turns to bingo games in an attempt to support his struggling family during the Depression. The movie is based on a short story that Ellison published just before he started writing Invisible Man.

Native Son (1951)

This adaptation of Richard Wright's novel was beset with problems, one of which was Wright's decision to play the role of Bigger himself. Having an overweight, 40-something-year-old man attempt to portray a 19-year-old did not help the movie's quality. It flopped upon release in the U.S. After seeing the film industry's treatment of his former mentor's opus, Ellison refused to allow a film adaptation of Invisible Man during his lifetime.

The Fifties (1997)

We remember the 1950s as an era of poodle skirts, men in suits, and Donna Reed. It was also the decade of Invisible Man, Rosa Parks, and the awakening of a new American consciousness. This TV documentary, based on the book by legendary historian David Halberstam, takes an honest look at American art, culture, and politics during the 1950s. Segment Six of the series looks at the impact of Ellison's Invisible Man.

Jazz (2001)

Jazz was a major influence on Ellison's life and work. Documentary master Ken Burns looks at the role in American life and culture played by jazz music, a medium that has been called the most democratic of all music. Burns also discusses the use of jazz in Invisible Man.

Richard Wright: Black Boy (1995)

Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright had a complicated friendship, encouraging each other's work despite serious ideological differences. Ellison appears in this documentary about Wright's life.

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