“The Color Purple” is based on the novel of the same name by Alice Walker who won the Pulitzer Prize for her efforts. The story takes place in Georgia in the early years of the 20th century. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in eleven different categories and did not win any of them. However, Whoopi Goldberg won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture. The film was directed by Steven Spielberg and it was his first feature-length film with a serious topic.
Whoopi Goldberg - Wikimedia
The film opened with 14-year-old Celie Harris (Whoopi Goldberg) and her sister Nettie (Akosua Busia) walking through the flower fields near their home. They always played an intricate handclapping game when they were together. It is only when they came out of the high grass that it was evident that Celie was very pregnant. Shortly thereafter, she had a baby girl whom she named Olivia, who was taken away from her immediately by her widowed father who sired the child and the baby was given away for adoption. Earlier on, Celie had another child, a boy, who had also been taken from her immediately. She was unable to have any other children.
A widowed neighbor of theirs, Albert Johnson (Danny Glover) had his eyes on Nettie as he was seeking another wife to care for his three young children. When he approached the girls’ father, he was told he could never have Nettie, but he could have Celie. He reluctantly married Celie and her first duty was to clean his filthy house. In short order, she had it clean and highly organized. Albert, though, was mean to her and beat her at times.
When Celie was in town doing the shopping, she came across the preacher’s wife carrying a small baby. She asked if she might hold the baby and the woman allowed it. She told her that the child was seven months old and her name was Olivia. Celie knew that it was her very own baby, but she never saw them again.
Oprah Winfrey - Wikimedia
Nettie Comes to Visit
Celie was so happy when Nettie came to visit, having run away from home, and Celie asked Albert if she could stay for a while. Albert agreed to it. The girls were so happy to be together and Nettie began to teach Celie to read. They played their handclapping game which was so familiar to them. Celie said to Nettie “You gonna have to leave here soon, before he makes his move on you.” Albert did run after Nettie but she got away and left the house. Before she left, she promised Celie that she would write to her.
No Letters from Lettie
Albert asked Celie to shave him because his friend Shug Avery (Margaret Avery) was coming to visit. He had always been in love with Shug and was sorry that he hadn’t married her. She was a singer and performer and was very beautiful. Celie kept hoping for a letter from Lettie, but none arrived.
Harpo and Sofia are Married
Albert’s oldest son, Harpo (Willard Pugh), was in love with a girl named Sofia (Oprah Winfrey) and wanted to marry her. Sofia was expecting a baby. Albert insulted her, but she and Harpo did get married. Eventually, she and the baby left Harpo. He went on to open a “juke joint” where the townsmen gathered. It became a successful venture for Harpo.
Danny Glover - Wikimedia
Shug Avery Arrives
Shug Avery arrived in a horse and carriage and was very tired and ill. Her first words to Celie were “You sure are ugly.” Albert asked Celie to make up the spare bedroom for Shug. He tried to make breakfast for her, but burned most of it, and Shug threw it out the door. Celie then made Shug a nice breakfast which she ate. She and Celie became friends, and Shug told Celie about her father who was the local pastor who did not approve of Shug’s career and lifestyle. Shug tried to make Celie smile because Celie always hid her mouth behind her hand when she smiled. Celie became very fond of Shug, and was happy when Shug kissed her and gave her confidence. She even let Celie try on some of her costumes which she wore when she sang.
Shug Performs at Harpo’s Juke Joint
Shug was a big hit at Harpo’s juke joint the night she sang there. Folks came from far and near to hear her. Celie was there also. Sofia walked in and introduced her friend Henry. She walked over and punched Harpo’s girlfriend Squeak (Rae Dawn Chong). A huge fight ensued in the tavern.
Shug Leaves for Memphis
Shug went to visit her father at his church. She told him he was the best preacher in the world. He would not speak to her so she left. She decided to leave and go to Memphis. Celie said she would go with her and started packing her belongings. Albert caught her and beat her once again. Sadly, she followed Shug to the train station carrying all of Shug’s luggage.
Sofia Goes to Jail
The mayor and his wife were in town. The mayor walked up to Sofia and told her that his wife would like her to work for her as her maid. Sofia said “Hell, no” and punched the mayor and knocked him down. She was sent to jail for eight years. When she finally got out of prison, she had to work for the mayor’s wife Millie anyway. Millie had just received a new car from her husband and Sofia showed her how to drive it. She could never get the hang of it.
Sofia Goes to See Her Children
When Christmas came, Millie told Sofia that she would drive her to see her children. Sofia jumped at the chance. She dropped Sofia off and her three children came up to her and embraced her. Millie started to drive off and ran into a tree and backed up very close to the house. Sofia told her she would send one of the men to drive her home. Millie would have none of it since she was fearful of all of them. Sofia had to cut her visit short so that she could drive Millie home.
Purple Flowers - Wikimedia
Shug and Celie Find Lettie’s Letters
Shug came by Albert’s house with her new husband Grady. They were asked to stay awhile. One day, Shug went out to pick up the mail and gave Celie a letter. It was from Lettie. Lettie wrote to Celie that she had been writing to her all those years even though Celie probably thought she was dead. Lettie had been living with the missionaries who had adopted Celie’s children; they were in Africa and were trying to get through immigration to come back to America. Shug and Celie combed Albert’s house, looking for the lost letters which Albert had confiscated for so many years. They finally found them in a loose floor board after uprooting the entire house looking for them.
Celie Leaves with Shug
Celie finally stood up to Albert and told him she was leaving with Shug and Grady. Albert tried to prevent her from leaving, but she was able to get away. When Celie’s father died, Celie learned that he was really her stepfather. She realized finally “My children are not my sister and brother. My paw is not my paw.” Also, she learned that she had inherited her childhood home and a shop from her real father.
In one of the closing scenes, Shug led some patrons from Harpo’s juke joint over to the church, singing all the way. Her father stood with tears in his eyes, and the two embraced while everyone rejoiced.
Celie is Reunited with Her Children
Albert had secretly arranged with the immigration services for Nettie and Celie’s two children to come to America. Nettie, Adam and Olivia were reunited with Celia at her house. In the last scene, Celie and Nettie were seen playing their handclapping game once again.
I loved this film and want to view it again. It should be seen by every generation of Americans.