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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Cicely Tyson's finest work

A few days ago came the sad word that Cicely Tyson had passed away at 96.  What an amazing career she had.  Actually, what an amazing life she lived.  Tyson arose in the entertainment industry at a pivotal moment for African-Americans in the medium of movies and television.  For her devotion to her craft she won every major award in the field, and a place of fondness in the hearts of her many fans.

So in honor of her memory, I thought it worthwhile to share what is easily her best performance.  The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is a made-for-television movie that premiered in 1974.  Based on the novel of the same name, it tells the century-spanning story of a young girl born into slavery, who comes to witness emancipation and Reconstruction, the rise of American industry, the world wars, and ultimately her taking part in the civil rights movement at the age of 110.

It is a fascinating film.  One of the greatest to come from the made-for-TV movie genre.  Something that they just can't seem to nail this perfectly anymore.  Ideally it is a film that would be shown to every high school student.  There is a real sense of history in this movie.  So much so that The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman has often been mistaken for a true nonfiction story.  Tyson portrayed Pittman through eight decades of life, made astoundingly realistic with makeup from none other than Rick Baker and Stan Winston.

It's on YouTube.  Instead of embedding it as a playable video, I'll make it a clickable link.  This isn't the kind of movie you need to see squished up within the margins of a blog post.  Better to watch it widescreen, maybe even streaming it to your high-def set if you're set up to do that.  And as I alluded, maybe some teachers will appreciate being able to show this to their students.

Click here for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (one hour fifty minutes)