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'I Passed for White' (Film Synopsis)

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  • multiracialbookclub
    I PASSED FOR WHITE (Film Synopsis) Starring: Sonya Wilde & James Franciscus In this overly dramatic melodrama, a light-complexioned woman of Mixed-Race
    Message 1 of 1 , May 27, 2007
                     (Film Synopsis)



           Sonya Wilde  &  James Franciscus

           In this overly dramatic melodrama, a light-complexioned 
           woman of Mixed-Race Lineage abandons her family 
           to pretend that she is a Mono-racial White woman. 

           She soon marries a wealthy White man, but does 
           not inform him of her Mixed-Race Lineage. 

           Eventually the pressures caused by keeping her 
           full ancestry a secret cause her to breakdown. 

             (excerpted from Sandra Brennan review at ' All Movie Guide


      Bernice Lee, a student who is a light-complexioned
      woman of Mixed-Race Lineage which includes
      part-Black ancestry, attends a nightclub in Los
      Angeles where her darker-complexioned brother
      Chuck performs with his own jazz group.
      Chuck gets into a fight when a White man calls him 
      a name and also insults Bernice -- due to thinking
      that she is a White girl dating a man-of-color.

      The next day, Bernice talks to her grandmother
      about the incident and about school, where she
      has been snubbed by both White and "black"
      students after a White girl, whom she thought was
      her friend, told everyone she was "passing" for White.

      Bernice wants to quit school and get a job,
      and she asks why she cannot "pass" for White.

      Gram, a woman-of-color whose husband was White,
      says that if she had to do it over, she would not.

      Bernice assures her that she does not want
      to 'marry', but only get a job as a White girl.

      Gram still advises against any attempts at passing. 

      At an office building, Bernice is offered a job as an
      elevator girl and is told that if she had written
      'White' as her race on her application form,
      she could have gotten secretarial work.

      She then packs her things and flies to
      New York, where, using the name "
      Lila Brownell" and "passing" for White,
      she gets a job as a secretary for an ad agency.

      One night, she attends a company cocktail
      party and runs into Frederick "Rick" Leyton,
      who earlier tried to flirt with her on the plane.

      He admits he had tracked her
      down and they begin to date.

      Bernice soon learns that Rick is from
      a wealthy old New England family.

      During a dinner party with Sally Roberts,
      Bernice's co-worker, and Jay Morgan,
      Rick's friend, Bernice is overcome by
      her feelings for Rick, but when he calls
      at three in the morning to propose
      marriage, she tells him it is too soon and that
      there is much he does not know about her.

      In love with Rick, Bernice confides in Sally,
      who advises her not to tell Rick that she is
      of a Mixed-Race Lineage which includes
      part-Black ancestry, because despite his
      feelings, he will have to tell his family, and
      they, Sally believes, will not allow the marriage.

      Bernice tries to avoid Rick, but he insists that
      what matters to him is whether she loves
      him, and she admits that she does.

      Bernice tells Rick's parents a number of
      lies about her family, who, she says, live
      in Richmond and cannot attend the wedding
      because they are leaving the country.

      After the wedding, Mrs. Leyton starts to
      suspect that Bernice has lied about her family.

      At a nightclub, Bernice nervously looks away after
      seeing that her brother Chuck is in the band.

      When Chuck approaches and takes her
      hand, Rick viciously hits him and orders
      him to take his hands off his wife.

      Bernice explains that Chuck is a musician she knew from
      school, but begins to cry when Rick argues that she left
      Richmond before the schools there were integrated.
      As she leaves the club, Chuck sadly shakes his head.

      When Bernice becomes pregnant, she then
      illogically worries that the baby will somehow
      have either a brown or black skin coloring.

      After her doctor prescribes exercise and even
      drink to calm her, she goes to a club with Rick
      and his parents and dances with a number of men.

      Rick explodes and berates her for acting like
      a "cheap dance hall dame," and when she
      acknowledges a black piano player, Rick says one
      would think she were friends with "those black cats."

      Bernice now plans to go away with Sally to have the
      baby, and if the baby looks "black", give Rick the
      opportunity to have nothing more to do with
      her or the child; however, after she goes
      through a night of pain, she is taken to
      the hospital, where she delivers the baby.

      In a semi-delirious state, she asks the nurse if the
      baby is "black", unaware that Rick is in the room.

      Rick then tells her that the baby did not live,
      and later, she is allowed to see the dead
      baby, which obviously looks White.

      Bernice explains to Rick that she was
      afraid the baby might have been "black"
      from choking, then cries hysterically.

      At home, Bernice learns from her black maid Bertha that
      Mrs. Leyton has discovered that the picture Bernice has
      identified as her mother is a fake, and that Mrs. Leyton
      has also seen books on intermarriage in Bernice's dresser.

      Bertha reveals that she told Mrs.
      Leyton that the books are her own.

      Rick finds Bertha comforting Bernice and angrily orders
      her to take her hands off his wife and get out, then
      queries Bernice about her fascination with "negroes".

      He accuses her of having slept with the black
      musician and violently throws her on the bed.

      She admits to lying, but says that the baby was Rick's.

      Unable to believe her, Rick leaves for town to
      stay overnight and think about their situation.

      Bernice goes to the airport accompanied by the
      still loyal Sally and reasons it is just as well that
      the Leytons do not know the truth about her.

      When Bernice arrives back home,
      she embraces Gram and Chuck.

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