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Released Sep 29, 1949 1h 42m Drama List
67% Tomatometer 18 Reviews 72% Audience Score 1,000+ Ratings
Pinky (Jeanne Crain) is a black woman so fair-skinned she was able to pose as white throughout nursing school. Newly graduated, she flees south to visit her grandmother (Ethel Waters) after a doctor, unaware of her true ancestry, proposes to her. Unsure how to react, she looks to her grandmother, who warns her that only trouble will come of an interracial marriage. Pinky agrees and instead stays to help her grandmother care for an elderly, rich, and fatally ill white woman (Ethel Barrymore). Read More Read Less
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Critics Reviews

View All (18) Critics Reviews
Bosley Crowther New York Times Vivid, revealing and emotionally intense. Rated: 4/5 Mar 25, 2006 Full Review Nell Minow Movie Mom Rated: 3/5 Oct 4, 2003 Full Review Jonathan Rosenbaum Chicago Reader The results are uneven, though fitfully interesting. Jan 1, 2000 Full Review Dilys Powell Sunday Times (UK) Pinky is an extremely moving piece of work; moving in its acting, its direction and its writing... It speaks to us with understanding, pity and indignation of the suffering, the courageous human figure. Oct 3, 2023 Full Review B.M. Phillips Baltimore Afro-American Pinky is an entertaining movie. It may have a different meaning for you. Be sure to see it. Feb 3, 2022 Full Review Nell Dodson Russell Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder Factually, in spite of the straight-out-of Hollywood conclusion, Pinky comes closer to getting at a few basic facts than either Lost Boundaries or Home of the Brave. Jan 15, 2022 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (53) audience reviews
Ken R Darryl F. Zanuck was certainly brave in bringing ‘Pinky' to the screen in the racial climate of 1948. And equally surprising (and pleasing) he managed to show a profit – proving that the American people, and the world, were able to share his vision of humanity and equality. Jeanne Crain was quite a revelation bringing her, black passing as white, character home with an outstanding performance (some may not approve of this casting today but hey it was, and is, ‘acting' not a documentary) While the finished product is impressive, I might have expected a better turn from both contributing directors (J.Ford/E.Kazan) with perhaps some touches tending to be lacking of their best works. Still, ‘Pinky' looks better with each viewing; it also features some standout sound design adding impressive atmos to several scenes. All three female leads deserved their accolades and adding to the main contributing attributes of greatness are the striking b/w visuals supplied by Master cinematographer Joseph MacDonald (The Sand Pebbles, Walk on the Wild Side) The screenplay adaptation, based on Cid Ricketts Sumner's 1946 novel Quality, flows naturally, always remaining believable. The Fox DVD release offers good images but voice reproduction leaves something to be desired, perhaps the Criterion Company (or other) may have fixed this up since? Rated 4 out of 5 stars 11/08/21 Full Review Tom M This is movie that, in 2020, is quite uncomfortable to watch at times. I suppose in 1949 the criticism varied depending upon which state it was shown. Good performances by all. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 11/22/20 Full Review steve d It has some good intentions but nothing in the film is effective enough to achieve them. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review Audience Member "What's rational about prejudice?" This question, asked by "Pinky's" titular character to her fiancé summarizes the conflict, internal and external, of this excellent message film. In honor of such a ground breaking film, I wish I had more ground breaking commentary, but suffice to say this is a wonderful film dealing with such a negative repulsive subject and still worthy of consideration today. Now, many if not most of the technical aspects of Pinky would be different if filmed in this era, but those do not detract from the film's powerful message. As for messages, Pinky's tagline, "The poignant story of a girl who fell desperately in love," doesn't encapsulate the film at all. At its core, "Pinky'"s message concerns being true to who you are and standing up to bigotry no matter the consequences. The title character returns to the rural south in search of her true identity, despite a marriage proposal from a white doctor and the promise of a cushy life. In the end though, she becomes a tragic figure who regains her racial pride but loses the man she loves, who cannot understand Pinky's internal struggle. Its racial theme is treated in a fairly milquetoast manner by today's standards, but 1949 Hollywood was much more squeamish. I admit, though this go may far as any studio could go in 1949-so kudos to Daryl F. Zanuck. The choice of Jeanne Crain to play the title role is questionable to me, but the studio had to calculate white audience's attitudes. Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne, more authentic choices for the role of the mulatto Pinky, auditioned for the role. Both Ethel Barrymore as the aged white dowager and Oscar-nominated Ethel Waters, as Pinky's grandmother and conscience, are outstanding. DVD reviews must necessarily comment on the transfer's quality, and I assess this one to be very good. Many of the movie's sets will appear cheap to today's audience, but that standard of quality was acceptable in 1949 and does not detract from the film's message. In the final analysis Pinky deserves a 5 for its message and a 4 for casting and production values. It doesn't have the impact that "To Kill a Mockingbird" does, nor in my humble opinion does it quite measure up to "Gentlemen's Agreement" or "Crossfire" for 40s films depicting the evils of prejudice. It must have struck a chord with moviegoers; Pinky was Fox's top box office draw of 1949 and second-highest grossing film of that year. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 02/14/23 Full Review jim b A movie that was simply impossible to believe (I only watched it all the way through because I paid for a rental), due to the casting of Jeanne Crain as a black woman. This was COMPLETELY absurd, and renders the movie unwatchable. I mean, we all have to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy films sometimes, but this was impossible. What's next? A movie starring Sidney Poitier where he plays a white man? That's about as believable! This was surely the worst Elia Kazan movie I've seen yet. And he was one of the greatest directors here - what was he thinking?!?? This is supposed to be an anti-racist film, but by having someone SO fair-skinned playing a "colored" woman, it caters to the racism of the day and is completely outdated - as if this movie ever worked. I'm ALL for movies against racism, but this movie just was the most impossible movie to believe while watching that I've ever SEEN! And now, time to watch Steve Martin in The Jerk?!? GOD, this was awful. Wow. And some people DARE to compare this to the magnificent To Kill A Mockingbird. They're out of their MINDS! Rated 0.5 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review Audience Member The title character, Pinky, is a woman returning to the south after going to school and getting her nursing degree up north. While sheâ(TM)s been light enough to â~passâ(TM) while away, sheâ(TM)s soon reminded of just how differently white people treat her once they realize sheâ(TM)s African-American. The film is thus a study in racism and a good one at that, with powerful early scenes giving us the minority perspective in incidents ranging from casual condescension to outright harassment â" and these come from all sides, including the men of the town, society women, and the law. Lest you think youâ(TM)ve seen all this sort of thing before, the film isnâ(TM)t always predictable, and Director Elia Kazan does a great job of finding a balance between making his points and telling a story. The resulting impression we get of the attitude of most of the white people includes a haughty feeling of superiority, distrust, and anger, and it feels highly realistic. Beneath it all we feel simmering danger, one that might be unleashed in horrible ways if the African-Americans donâ(TM)t keep in line, or otherwise reject the proposition that theyâ(TM)re simply inferior. There are several instances of this, including a near-rape, but the scene where Pinky and her grandmother have to walk through a group of sullen white people in a courtroom really stands out, and Kazan makes it all the more ominous by exercising restraint. Itâ(TM)s not all bad though; for example, we get this lovely, nuanced, and honest reaction from her fiancà (C), a white doctor who finds out about her racial identity only after coming south: âWhy I donâ(TM)t think Iâ(TM)m prejudiced. Iâ(TM)m a doctor and I hope Iâ(TM)m enough of a scientist not to believe in the mythology of superior and inferior races. It is a tricky business though. You never know what exists deep down inside yourself. I want to be absolutely sure that nothing like that exists inside of me.â? Regrettably, the role of Pinky is played by Jeanne Crain, a Caucasian, when both Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge were apparently interested. I say that for the obvious reason, that itâ(TM)s another instance of whitewashing, but also because Crain is a little wooden, and doesnâ(TM)t have the necessary spark to completely pull off the part (Oscar nomination notwithstanding). Dandridge would have been amazing. There is a small possible silver lining in the casting choice, in that in seeing how ludicrous it was for someoneâ(TM)s attitude to flip based on Pinkyâ(TM)s âblacknessâ?, perhaps it would take a shorter mental leap for some to extend that realization to the entire premise of judging others based on the color of their skin. The rest of the cast is stronger, with Ethel Barrymore leading the way. I also liked Frederick Oâ(TM)Nealâ(TM)s performance as a lazy but perceptive neighbor, and Ethel Waters delivers a lot of heart as her grandmother. The film also has elements of feminism. We see it in the older generation, with Barrymoreâ(TM)s character acerbic but tough as nails, and Waters as a hard worker and survivor who sacrifices for others. We also see it in Pinky when her fiancà (C) tries to take her away from it all. How she asserts herself is wonderful â" she doesnâ(TM)t want to lose her identity, her self â" both as a person of color and as a woman - even if she is in love. The bravery and the strength displayed is heartwarming. The film feels ahead of its time for 1949, presaging the Civil Rights movement of the 1960â(TM)s, and the continued struggle all the way up to the present day. As Pinkyâ(TM)s lawyer puts it, âYour honor, this is a small country town. We've always thought that what happened here was our own private concern. This is no longer true. Just as it is no longer true that our country as a whole can exist entirely to itself.â? What a nice message this is, this acknowledgment of something larger to consider, and a signal that the times needed to change. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/13/23 Full Review Read all reviews

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Movie Info

Synopsis Pinky (Jeanne Crain) is a black woman so fair-skinned she was able to pose as white throughout nursing school. Newly graduated, she flees south to visit her grandmother (Ethel Waters) after a doctor, unaware of her true ancestry, proposes to her. Unsure how to react, she looks to her grandmother, who warns her that only trouble will come of an interracial marriage. Pinky agrees and instead stays to help her grandmother care for an elderly, rich, and fatally ill white woman (Ethel Barrymore).
Elia Kazan
20th Century Fox
Production Co
Twentieth Century Fox
Original Language
Release Date (Theaters)
Sep 29, 1949, Original
Release Date (Streaming)
Aug 1, 2012
1h 42m
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