One Potato, Two Potato (1964)

92 mins | Drama | 29 July 1964

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HISTORY

Producer Sam Weston told the 19 Sep 1964 LAT that he chose to film in Painesville, OH, based on its uncanny resemblance to the small town described in Raphael Hayes’s screenplay. While Weston knew of the town since childhood, Hayes had never been there. The 26 Jul 1964 NYT revealed that Weston discovered actress Barbara Barrie while she was appearing in a Flint, MI, production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Barrie recalled being offered the role on the same May 1963 day that police were attacking civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, AL.
       Principal photography began 5 Aug 1963, according to the 27 Sep 1963 ^DV. Barrie stated that the cast and crew were housed in a motel during the entire production. Along with sometimes challenging weather conditions and “lighting shifts,” filming often occurred in relatively small spaces, using existing structures rather than specially constructed sets.
       According to the 17 Apr 1964 NYT, the $230,000 budget was supplied by approximately fifty “private investors,” mostly from New York City, who contributed as little as $500. Photography was completed over a period of thirty-four days. No U.S. distributor was willing to handle the film, except for an unidentified major company, which declined after the producers refused to add a “cheerful” ending. Others anticipated a lack of interest from southern exhibitors. Director Larry Peerce, son of opera singer Jan Peerce, told the 13 Jul 1964 NYT that he also offered the picture to the U.S. selection committee for the Cannes Film Festival. As stated in the ... More Less

Producer Sam Weston told the 19 Sep 1964 LAT that he chose to film in Painesville, OH, based on its uncanny resemblance to the small town described in Raphael Hayes’s screenplay. While Weston knew of the town since childhood, Hayes had never been there. The 26 Jul 1964 NYT revealed that Weston discovered actress Barbara Barrie while she was appearing in a Flint, MI, production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Barrie recalled being offered the role on the same May 1963 day that police were attacking civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, AL.
       Principal photography began 5 Aug 1963, according to the 27 Sep 1963 ^DV. Barrie stated that the cast and crew were housed in a motel during the entire production. Along with sometimes challenging weather conditions and “lighting shifts,” filming often occurred in relatively small spaces, using existing structures rather than specially constructed sets.
       According to the 17 Apr 1964 NYT, the $230,000 budget was supplied by approximately fifty “private investors,” mostly from New York City, who contributed as little as $500. Photography was completed over a period of thirty-four days. No U.S. distributor was willing to handle the film, except for an unidentified major company, which declined after the producers refused to add a “cheerful” ending. Others anticipated a lack of interest from southern exhibitors. Director Larry Peerce, son of opera singer Jan Peerce, told the 13 Jul 1964 NYT that he also offered the picture to the U.S. selection committee for the Cannes Film Festival. As stated in the 4 May 1964 LAT , the three committee members who agreed to view the picture, Fred Zinneman, George Stevens, Jr., and Allen Rivkin, walked out after thirty minutes. Weston believed the scene in which Barbara Barrie kissed her African America co-star, Bernie Hamilton, was “too much” for them. The 13 Jul 1964 NYT reported that, while Peerce was seeking distribution in Europe, the selection committee in Cannes, France, agreed to screen the film at their upcoming festival, where it received a five-minute standing ovation, and won a best actress award for Barbara Barrie. A news item in the 23 Jun 1964 DV stated that Weston and Peerce recovered their production expenses after receiving an advance on royalties from distributor British Lion Films.
       One Potato, Two Potato was scheduled to open 29 Jul 1964 at the Murray Hill Theatre in New York City. Openings followed at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, and at the Beverly Cañon Theatre in Beverly Hills, CA, on 27 Aug 1964. Bernie Hamilton appeared at debuts in New York City, London, England, and Paris, France, according to the 24 Jun 1964 DV. Reviews were mixed: While the the 9 Sep 1964 LAT complained about the film’s lack of professionalism, the 8 May 1964 DV called it “a tactful look” at interracial marriage, and the 27 Dec 1964 NYT listed it among the ten best releases of the year. Additional honors included a third-place New York Film Critics Circle Award for Barbara Barrie; an Academy Award nomination for Writing, Story and Screenplay—Written Directly for the Screen; a Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award nomination for Best Written American Drama; and a citation from the Independent Film Importers and Distributors of America.
       On 14 Aug 1964, DV announced commercial screenings in OK and TX, and mentioned additional offers from other Southern states. As noted in the 25 Sept 1964 issue, U.S. distributor Cinema V anticipated gross receipts of $1 million, with exhibitors from VA, LA, and NC bidding for the film. Earnings to date totaled approximately $300,000. However, an article in the 5 Apr 1966 NYT revealed that, out of the 250 Southern theaters that screened the film, only thirty to forty did not have an exclusively African American clientele. According to the 6 Apr 1965 DV, the film was very popular in Japan, where it was considered a compelling melodrama, rather than an exploration of U.S. race relations, of which the Japanese had reportedly little understanding.
       An article in the 10 Oct 1964 NYT noted that the financial success of One Potato, Two Potato, along with Black Like Me (1964) and Lilies of the Field (1963, see entries), prompted the Hollywood establishment to reexamine their tradition of avoiding “racial themes.” While the film was considered progressive by Western standards, a different perspective was offered by a letter appearing in the 10 Feb 1965 Var. Jeff Fadiman, an American school teacher working in Tanzania (known at the time as Tanganyika), complained that his students were disconcerted by the picture’s portrayal of “the Negro as an object of contempt within American society,” and he denounced those responsible for exporting such a film without considering the audience’s sensibilities. Fadiman, an employee of the U.S. State Department’s Agency for International Development (AID), was the son of Seven Arts Productions executive William Fadiman.
Shown at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival at 102 min. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
27 Sep 1963
p. 10.
Daily Variety
8 May 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
24 Jun 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
7 Aug 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
14 Aug 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Sep 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
18 Jan 1965
p. 6.
Daily Variety
6 Apr 1965
p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
4 May 1964
p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
27 Aug 1964
Section A, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
9 Sep 1964
p. 31.
Los Angeles Times
19 Sep 1964
p. 19.
New York Times
17 Apr 1964
p. 31.
New York Times
13 Jul 1964
p. 23.
New York Times
26 Jul 1964
Section X, p. 5.
New York Times
30 Jul 1964
p. 16.
New York Times
10 Oct 1964
p. 18.
New York Times
27 Dec 1964
p. 69.
New York Times
4 Jan 1965
p. 35.
New York Times
5 Apr 1966
p. 42.
Variety
10 Feb 1965
p. 2, 43.
DETAILS
Release Date:
29 July 1964
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 29 July 1964
Los Angeles opening: 27 August 1964
Production Date:
5 August--November 1963
Duration(in mins):
92
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Having been deserted by her irresponsible husband, Joe, shortly before the birth of their daughter, Ellen, Julie Cullen struggles to raise her child in a midwestern town. She obtains a divorce from her husband, who has gone to South America to seek his fortune, moves to another town, goes to work at a local plant, and meets Frank Richards, a black office worker at the plant. They fall in love and marry, despite opposition from Frank's parents. They move to Frank's parents' farm, where Julie is immediately made welcome by Mrs. Richards, but it is only after she bears Frank a son that Frank's father accepts her. Some time later, Joe Cullen, learning of Julie's marriage to a black, returns and institutes legal action for custody of Ellen. Advised to leave the state with his family because chances of retaining custody of the child are slight, Frank decides to remain and fight. Although the judge is aware that Ellen is healthy and happy with Julie and Frank, he takes society's prejudices into account and awards custody to Joe. Bewildered and hurt, Ellen is taken away in a taxi by Joe as Julie helplessly chases the departing ... +


Having been deserted by her irresponsible husband, Joe, shortly before the birth of their daughter, Ellen, Julie Cullen struggles to raise her child in a midwestern town. She obtains a divorce from her husband, who has gone to South America to seek his fortune, moves to another town, goes to work at a local plant, and meets Frank Richards, a black office worker at the plant. They fall in love and marry, despite opposition from Frank's parents. They move to Frank's parents' farm, where Julie is immediately made welcome by Mrs. Richards, but it is only after she bears Frank a son that Frank's father accepts her. Some time later, Joe Cullen, learning of Julie's marriage to a black, returns and institutes legal action for custody of Ellen. Advised to leave the state with his family because chances of retaining custody of the child are slight, Frank decides to remain and fight. Although the judge is aware that Ellen is healthy and happy with Julie and Frank, he takes society's prejudices into account and awards custody to Joe. Bewildered and hurt, Ellen is taken away in a taxi by Joe as Julie helplessly chases the departing vehicle. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.