Movie Review: “Mr. & Mrs. Loving” by BB&W Crew Dude, ‘Friends of Jay’

Mr. & Mrs. Loving

In 2012 when interracial marriage has become more common and acceptable, it’s surprising to see the events in a movie about how it was as recently as 1960. It was in Central Point, Virginia where blacks and whites lived in peace and harmony that Richard Loving (Timothy Hutton) and Mildred “Bean” Jeter (Lela Rochon) grew up and fell in love. They wanted to get married, but the trouble was that Richard was white and Mildred was Black, and 1960 Virginia had a miscegenation law that made marriage between them illegal. It was punishable with imprisonment. But Bean became pregnant and against warnings from all sides they decided to get married. Since they couldn’t get married in Virginia they went to Washington, D. C. for the ceremony and then returned to Virginia to settle down thinking that was the end of it. But it wasn’t to be that easy. The very night they returned, they were awakened in their bedroom by the sheriff and his deputies and arrested for breaking the law. The court convicted them both of miscegenation and they were given the choice between three years imprisonment or leaving the state and not returning for 25 years. They decided to leave and go back to Washington, D. C.

Naturally Richard thinks of going to a white neighborhood. He meets the kind of resistance he never expected. Suddenly all the landlords have full apartment houses with waiting lists. One landlady suggest that they might be “more comfortable” in the black section of town. Richard Loving had always had a fiery temper and when they do move to the black section, he imagines Bean having an affair with a black man. The neighborhood sage (Ruby Dee) persuades him that she isn’t having an affair and helps Bean go from a naive country girl to a more sophisticated city girl.

Here Bean becomes part of the budding Civil Rights movement and an admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King. Richard finds it difficult to get a job——especially with a black wife and biracial child. He doesn’t like the idea of Civil Rights, odd in a white man with a black wife, and thinks MLK is a common rabble rouser. It is now 1963 and the March on Washington where Dr. King gives his famous and magnificent “I Have A Dream” speech. Encouraged by that speech, Bean writes a letter to Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, tells him the situation and ask for his help. The naiveté of an interracial couple writing to Bobby Kennedy and him writing back and helping the couple seems like a very long shot today——but it happened. He gives the case to ACLU attorney Bernie Cohen who visits the Lovings and suggests a case that must start in the lower courts to eventually go to the Supreme Court of the United States. He warns then It will take time. It takes four years of lower court desicisions, but it finally arrived at the Supreme Court and the court’s ruling strikes down miscegenation laws in all seventeen states that still had those laws on the books—-including Virginia—-and makes Interracial marriage the law of the land. The Lovings return to Central Point and have a celebration in the restaurant next to the courthouse where their battle against miscegenation began. This was a landmark case and the beginning of many love stories that had taken place only in the minds of many men and women, black and white.

The cast is outstanding. Timothy Hutton is very like the angry Richard Loving, ready for a verbal or physical fight and constantly on edge. Lela Rochon portrays the quiet country girl who grows when she reaches the city and finds the rightness of the Civil Rights movement organized by Martin Luther King. I was especially enchanted by Ruby Dee as the neighborhood peace maker who realizes the problems the Lovings are having and does her best to smooth their life. Blue (Isaiah Washington) the friend of the couple, who nonetheless tries to reason them out of marriage is spot on as the kindly person who understands their love but sees a hard life ahead for both of them. Cory Parker as Bernie Cohen is suitably cautious in keeping their hopes up while letting them know that it is by no means a sure thing. This is a TV movie and more care was taken than is usual for such a product. There was not only great care but real heart put into the film. Its obvious from the beginning that the producer, director and cast cared about these people and that comes out strongly on screen.

From today’s perspective its easy to say, “what was wrong with those people,” but fifty years ago things were so much different. Few black men could rise above the garbage collector/shoe shine boy/elevator operator category in those days. Even great musical artists like Nat “King” Cole, Ben Webster and Billie Holiday had to go to the the rear entrance of the theater because the front door was barred to African-Americans. Fifty years has made an enormous difference. Today Robert DeNiro, Iman, Roger Ebert, Halle Barry, etc., can marry whomever they wish——–unthinkable just fifty years ago. The subject of prejudice comes up quite a bit on many BWE blogs, and yes it still exists, but cases like the Lovings who had the courage to fight for what they wanted saved the day and took down the foolish barriers that were repulsive to human nature. God bless you Richard and Mildred Loving! May we never forget you.

This 1996 TV movie was seldom shown. It was released on DVD in 2005 in a very limited edition. I found a copy of the DVD in the bargain bin at Best Buy for $4.98. Because of its scarcity It is now worth around $140.00 when you can find a copy. But on Valentine’s Day on HBO at 8:00 PM there is the premiere of the documentary about the Lovings. Perhaps this will persuade the copyright holders to re-release this fine movie.

NOTE: You can see it free here.

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