In 1940s Chicago, a young black man takes a job as a chauffeur to a white family, which takes a turn for the worse when he accidentally kills the teenage daughter of the couple and then tries to cover it up.
User Reviews: Richard Wright’s novels are famous in France.When he had to escape from his native land in the McCarthy years he lived in Sartre’s and Camus’ country .So it was only natural that the first version of his "native son" was filmed by a French.Pierre Chenal was not a beginner when he made "Native Son" aka " Sangre Negra"-it was actually made in Argentina- he considers his best work.But Chenal had already succeeded in the Film Noir genre:he was the first to adapt for the screen "the postman always rings twice" (Le Dernier Tournant) and "La Foire Aux Chimères " (starring Von Stroheim,one of his favorite actors) was his towering achievement.
Not only Wright adapted his own novel but he also played the part of Bigger.This is rather a mistake ,for Bigger is supposed to be about 25 and the novelist was in his forties and it shows.But it’s interesting because it’s very rare that a writer becomes an actor in one of his stories (another example is Erich Maria Remarque in Sirk’s "a time to live and a time to die" ,but the German writer had a small supporting role).The budget was certainly rather low and the director is to be commanded for he made the best of it,particularly in the scene of Mary’s "murder" and in the sequence of the nightmare (the cotton field and the building near decay where Bigger and his girlfriend are hiding). The movie is rather short (90min) and some of the aspects of the novel are botched : Mary and her boyfriend ,who are activist students ,want Bigger to join the union ,and the fiancé gives him "books" which are probably not politically correct,all this is only skimmed over.The Dalton family is a human one ,and Wright ,who was an "Uncle Tom"’s grandchild (his grandparents were slaves) does not make them the bad guys .Bigger is a victim of fate ,and of his condition:had he been white he would not have killed ,he never meant to do it.
As Leonard Maltin wrote ,it was defeated by its low budget.The 1986 remake,starring Victor Love,Elizabeth McGovern and Matt Dillon is pretty good .Both versions are worth a look.