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      Sapphire

      1959 1h 32m Mystery & Thriller List
      Reviews 72% Audience Score 50+ Ratings A pregnant college student named Sapphire Robbins (Yvonne Buckingham) is murdered in London's Hampstead Heath. When police superintendent Robert Hazard (Nigel Patrick) discovers that the victim was a light-skinned black woman passing as white, it upends his initial assumptions. Hazard and his openly racist assistant (Michael Craig) explore the city's racially tense underground jazz scene as they interview suspects, including Sapphire's white fiancé (Paul Massie). Read More Read Less

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      Critics Reviews

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      Jay Jacobs The Reporter A thoroughly engrossing and highly plausible entertainment -- and an unusually trenchant examination of the psychology of bigotry. Jan 25, 2022 Full Review MFB Critics Monthly Film Bulletin Unfortunately, this film does not hold good on any level, and is flatly written and directed into the bargain. The melodrama has little drive other than the monotonous ending of sequence after sequence on a "punch line." Feb 8, 2018 Full Review Sean Axmaker Parallax View This is Important Cinema with Socially Relevant Themes and, while surely daring in its day, comes off as insufferably patronizing and sanctimonious at times. Feb 13, 2011 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

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      Matthew B Basil Dearden may not have seemed like a director who would ever defy expectations or challenge societal norms. By 1959, he had directed or co-directed over a couple of dozen movies without anyone gasping at either his cinematic brilliance or his radical subject matter. This changed suddenly with Sapphire, which ushered in a number of social justice movies by Dearden. It was not that Dearden ceased to be an establishment figure. His heroes are police officers. Nonetheless Dearden took advantage of a rise in liberal attitudes to make a ground-breaking British movie about race hatred and mixed ethnicity in Britain. By today's standards, Sapphire may seem mild, perhaps even offensive. However in 1959 the attitudes displayed in Sapphire were unusually enlightened. England was still a profoundly racist country. Black people rarely appeared in prominent roles in films. Prejudice reached alarming peaks. The year before Sapphire was released, there were racially-motivated riots in Notting Hill. That was the background against which Sapphire was made. On the surface, the film appeared to be yet another police procedural drama. Twelve minutes into the film there is a twist. When Dr Robbins (Earl Cameron) turns up at the police station, Hazard and Learoyd are shocked to discover that Sapphire's brother is black. What is more, he is not even her half-brother. They both share the same parents and are bi-racial, despite their physical differences in appearance. This takes the investigation in a new direction. Now that they know that Sapphire is ‘coloured' as they put it, Hazard and Learoyd have to consider the possibility that this is a hate crime. Janet Green's script is a cunningly constructed labyrinth of misdirection and red herrings. While it works well as a mystery movie, Sapphire is a whodunit with a difference. It is about the consequences of the murder. The question of who committed the murder is secondary to that. Sapphire's death unearths the whole range of prejudices against black people, some hidden or low level, some blatant and violent. There can be no happy ending here. A murderer is caught, but a family is shattered by hatred and murder. Racism is just as strong as it ever was, even if one criminal is punished. "We didn't solve anything, Phil," Hazard sadly observes; "We just picked up the pieces". I wrote a longer appreciation of Sapphire on my blog page, and drew comparisons with Dearden's later movie Victim if you would like to read more of my thoughts: https://themoviescreenscene.wordpress.com/2021/02/03/hidden-lives-loves-and-hates-sapphire-1959-and-victim-1961/ Rated 5 out of 5 stars 09/18/23 Full Review Audience Member Slow plot development, but chilling in it's racial tension. I was a child in the UK at this time and did not realize how bad things were. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 01/26/23 Full Review Frances H Excellent murder mystery that highlights racial prejudice in Britain in the 1950s. The more things chang, the more they stay the same. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 05/09/20 Full Review Audience Member A young girl is murdered on Hampstead Heath. The police investigate. The young girl's fiancé is questioned but he has an alibi. Then, suddenly, she is discovered to have been black but passing for white. Prejudice rears its ugly head; in 1950s London many people apparently feel no shame for voicing their bigotry. The fiancé's family harbor such unfounded hatred in their hearts. But another suspect, a black man, appears and the cops latch onto him. Director Basil Dearden manages to keep this tense police procedural moving and thought provoking while not telegraphing its conclusion (that is, keeping the murderer's identity a secret until the very end). Nigel Patrick is solid as the police superintendent who seems fully aware of the wrongs of racism even while his partner seems to condone or even support some of the negative sentiments. Still, it would have been great if more of the characters more vigorously presented an anti-racist message (rather than simply looking askance or suggesting that any group could be the targets of prejudice. But perhaps the'50's are too soon to hope for such an explicit take on the problem? In any event, the crime genre formula mixed with an examination of social problems/social issues is a dynamite combo and worth hunting down. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/04/23 Full Review Audience Member interesting early look at UK race relations and 'passing'. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 01/21/23 Full Review Audience Member Interesting film, well acted and some interest in finding out 'who done it' but the main interest is the depiction of racism in 1959 London, both as deliberately depicted in the script, and on the part of the film-makers use of stereo-types Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/13/23 Full Review Read all reviews
      Sapphire

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      Movie Info

      Synopsis A pregnant college student named Sapphire Robbins (Yvonne Buckingham) is murdered in London's Hampstead Heath. When police superintendent Robert Hazard (Nigel Patrick) discovers that the victim was a light-skinned black woman passing as white, it upends his initial assumptions. Hazard and his openly racist assistant (Michael Craig) explore the city's racially tense underground jazz scene as they interview suspects, including Sapphire's white fiancé (Paul Massie).
      Director
      Basil Dearden
      Producer
      Michael Relph
      Screenwriter
      Janet Green
      Production Co
      Artna Films Ltd.
      Genre
      Mystery & Thriller
      Original Language
      English
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Mar 11, 2017
      Runtime
      1h 32m
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