A Patch of Blue is a 1965 American drama film from cinematographer-turned-director Guy Green, starring Sidney Poitier, Elizabeth Hartman, and Shelley Winters. Made during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the film explores an interracial relationship with "love is blind" as its theme.
The plot is something of a modern-day Cinderella story: Selina D'arcey (Hartman) is a blind teenage girl, living in an unnamed big city with her abusive prostitute mother Rose-Ann (Winters) and alcoholic grandfather Ole Pa (Wallace Ford). She has little pleasure in life, spending her days cleaning the apartment, washing clothes, and stringing beads to sell. One day Selina is taken to the park, were she meets Gordon Ralfe (Poitier), an upper crust black man, who befriends and takes pity on her. Gordon plans to help Selina out of her impoverished life and the two begin to develop feelings for one another.
Adapted by Green from the 1961 novel Be Ready with Bells and Drums by Australian author Elizabeth Kata, the film was nominated for five Academy Awards, with Shelley Winters winning for Best Supporting Actress.
The film includes examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Rose-Ann is both demeaning toward and demanding of Selina, but crosses the line when Selina is raped by one of Rose-Ann's clients, an incident which forced Rose-Ann to rent a second room for her business and blames Selina for the trouble it caused her.
- Bittersweet Ending: Selina leaves for the school for the blind after admitting her love for Gordon. Gordon realizes that she has forgotten the music box. He races to give it to her before the bus leaves and he finds he is too late.
- Blind People Wear Sunglasses: Selina, the blind teenaged protagonist, wears her sunglasses whenever she goes outside.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Selina's sweet persona finally snaps when she's left in the apartment one day and can't meet Gordon. She throws things and yells at the empty beds, telling Ole Pa and Rose-Ann how much she hates them and how miserable they make her life.
- Determinator: The first time Selina tries to go the park, she can't make it past one block before having to go back to the apartment. Towards the end of the film, she finds her way there without any sort of help. The difference between the two times? She thought it was the last chance she was ever going to have to see Gordon.
- Eye Scream: Selina gets blinded when a bottle of chemicals is thrown in her face as a child.
- Good Samaritan: Gordon, a black man, breaks taboo by helping a blind white girl escape from her abusive mother.
- Karma Houdini: While at least Ole Pa is aware of how he's a terrible human being, Rose-Ann never really gets any comeuppance beyond Selina gaining enough independence to leave her.
- Magical Negro: Averted. Selina perceives Gordon as this but the film shows he's a regular guy who is just trying to help her out.
- Na´ve Everygirl: While Selina may be worldly in matters of sexuality, she's never gone to school and finds things like pineapple ice cream to be exotic.
- Nobody Poops: Used to advance the friendship between Gordon and Selina. She refuses his offer of juice in an attempt to invoke this, and he teasingly explains there's a nearby bathroom and is later shown waiting for her outside of it.
- Parental Title Characterization: Selina always calls Rose-Ann by her first name, which is suitable, seeing as Rose-Ann is barely a mother.
- Parents as People: Ole Pa is perpetually drunk but is more humane to Selina and far more sympathetic than Rose-Ann.
- Rape Discretion Shot: Selina is assaulted by one of her mother's clients. This is seen through a disturbing POV shot, as she tries to look away, but is forced to look at his face.
- Scars are Forever: Selina has some around her eyes from when she was blinded. Gordon gets her a pair of sunglasses to hide them.
- Vague Age: It's not really established how old Selina is supposed to be beyond some point past the age of eighteen. Elizabeth Hartman was twenty-one when filming the role.
- Vomit Discretion Shot: Selina retches on the floor after being beaten by Rose-Ann and witness to her fight with Ole Pa and the neighbors.
- Where da White Women At?: Gordon's brother Mark accuses him of this, and Gordon himself is conflicted as to the exact nature of his feelings for Selina.