While this original movie version of Lorraine Hansberry's award-winning play may have dated somewhat, it was groundbreaking when first released in 1961, and a wealth of future plays, films, and TV productions have taken their lead from this socially conscious drama about a struggling African-American family. Lena Younger (Claudia McNeil) is a strong, proud woman who has raised a family in a crowded apartment on the South Side of Chicago. Her son Walter Lee (Sidney Poitier) works as a chauffeur; intelligent and ambitious but impulsive and often angry, he desperately wants to get ahead in a world that offers him few opportunities. His wife Ruth (Ruby Dee) takes in laundry to help make ends meet and watches over their son. Younger daughter Beneatha (Diana Sands) is a college student who wants to become a doctor and often speaks of searching for her cultural identity. On the death of her husband, Lena becomes the beneficiary of a $10,000 life insurance payment, and suddenly the family is in conflict over how the money should be spent. Lena wants to use the money for a down payment on a house. Beneatha is hoping that Lena will help her pay for medical school. And Walter Lee wants to go into business with friends who plan to open a liquor store, which he's convinced will be a sure money maker. The cast, nearly all reprising their roles from the original Broadway production, offers a collection of superb performances; also keep an eye peeled for a young Louis Gossett Jr. as George Murchison. While Daniel Petrie's direction never takes A Raisin In The Sun very far from its roots as a stage play, it captures the power and tension of a strong ensemble cast working with an intelligent and moving script.
by Mark Deming synopsis