The Color Purple (1985)

PG-13 | 152 mins | Drama | 18 December 1985

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HISTORY

       According to the 6 Sep 1985 Publishers Weekly, author Alice Walker was initially reticent about selling screen rights to her 1982 Pultizer Prize and American Book Award winning novel, The Color Purple. She convened with a group of five women to discuss the merits of executive producers Jon Peters and Peter Gruber’s offer. At that time, the men were known for their recent 1983 blockbuster Flashdance (see entry), and Walker was concerned about Hollywood’s portrayal of women and African Americans. The friends concluded the only way to improve the exploitation of minorities was to work within the prevailing system, and Walker agreed to the deal.
       As stated in the Dec 1985 edition of San Francisco Focus, Walker’s contract stipulated she would serve as project consultant and fifty percent of the production team, aside from the cast, would be African American, female, or “people of the Third World.” Walker was also involved with casting and lobbied for “lesser-known actors” because their rise from obscurity represented the experience of characters in her novels. Publishers Weekly stated Walker selected Whoopi Goldberg to star in her feature film debut as “Celie” after seeing the comedienne perform in a small, San Francisco, CA, cabaret. However, San Francisco Focus maintained that Goldberg lobbied for a role in the picture before screen rights were sold. A 15 Feb 1985 LAT article, which announced Steven Spielberg had been contracted to direct and produce the picture, noted Goldberg was already being courted by several Hollywood studios at that time, and had recently signed ... More Less

       According to the 6 Sep 1985 Publishers Weekly, author Alice Walker was initially reticent about selling screen rights to her 1982 Pultizer Prize and American Book Award winning novel, The Color Purple. She convened with a group of five women to discuss the merits of executive producers Jon Peters and Peter Gruber’s offer. At that time, the men were known for their recent 1983 blockbuster Flashdance (see entry), and Walker was concerned about Hollywood’s portrayal of women and African Americans. The friends concluded the only way to improve the exploitation of minorities was to work within the prevailing system, and Walker agreed to the deal.
       As stated in the Dec 1985 edition of San Francisco Focus, Walker’s contract stipulated she would serve as project consultant and fifty percent of the production team, aside from the cast, would be African American, female, or “people of the Third World.” Walker was also involved with casting and lobbied for “lesser-known actors” because their rise from obscurity represented the experience of characters in her novels. Publishers Weekly stated Walker selected Whoopi Goldberg to star in her feature film debut as “Celie” after seeing the comedienne perform in a small, San Francisco, CA, cabaret. However, San Francisco Focus maintained that Goldberg lobbied for a role in the picture before screen rights were sold. A 15 Feb 1985 LAT article, which announced Steven Spielberg had been contracted to direct and produce the picture, noted Goldberg was already being courted by several Hollywood studios at that time, and had recently signed a two-picture deal with Warner Bros. Pictures, the film’s distributor. San Francisco Focus reported that producer Quincy Jones personally selected Spielberg to direct, despite skepticism from Walker fans and the African American community, who questioned whether a white male could adequately capture the central story of a black woman. A 15 Dec 1985 NYT article stated that Spielberg waived his salary to direct the $15 million picture, and earned only the Directors Guild of America’s (DGA) required minimum wage of $40,000.
       Detractors also doubted the hiring of Dutch, male screenwriter, Menno Meyjes, to adapt Walker’s novel. According to San Francisco Focus, Walker wrote a draft of the screenplay herself, but agreed to turn the job over to Meyjes on condition that she maintain script approval. She reportedly collaborated with Meyjes, adding lines and making adjustments during production. Publishers Weekly noted that Meyjes worked closely with Spielberg on The Color Purple, which marked his first theatrically-produced feature film script. As stated in Publishers Weekly, Meyjes wrote the initial draft in three weeks and, after a series of daily meetings with Spielberg, composed five drafts within the next five months to complete the final screenplay. Walker noted that she felt greater empathy for the novel’s male characters in Meyjes’ adaptation than she did when she was writing the novel. She also helped the actors translate their lines with greater authenticity, teaching them the pacing and rhythm of the Southern black dialect she new as a child. The 15 Dec 1985 NYT added that the novel’s attention to the lesbian relationship between Celie and “Shug Avery” was vastly truncated in the film.
       Walker’s daughter, Rebecca Leventhal, is credited onscreen as production associate.
       A 23 Apr 1985 HR news item stated that principal photography was scheduled to begin 3 Jun 1985 in Los Angeles, CA, because Spielberg’s then-wife, actress Amy Irving, was due to deliver their child around that time. According to the 15 Dec 1985 NYT, Amy Irving went into labor on 12 Jun 1985, the same moment in which Spielberg was filming “take three” of the scene in which “Celie” gives birth. San Francisco Focus noted that Spielberg’s infant son, Max, and Amy Irving, were consistently present on the set. The film was poised for a Dec 1985 release to attract Academy Award consideration, as noted in a 24 May 1985 LAHExam brief.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files and San Francisco Focus, North Carolina provided the primary locations for the film, even though Walker’s novel reflected her childhood memories in segregated Eatonton, Georgia. While production offices were headquartered at a Holiday Inn in Monroe, NC, photography took place the small Union County town of Marshville, where clay was poured over modern paved streets. In addition, sets were situated at an antebellum plantation in Anson County, near Wadesboro, NC, as stated in a Feb 1986 AmCin article. The farm was leased for a total of six months, with the time divided equally between construction and filming. A small, sixty-year-old Baptist church, threatened with demolition, was relocated to the plantation, where “Harpo’s” saloon and Celie’s home were also constructed. The field in front of Celie’s house was sown with purple flowers that bloomed within two weeks, providing the location of Celie’s climactic conversation with “Shug Avery” and her reunion with “Nettie.” In the last week of filming, the flowers were replaced with fabricated snow for winter scenes, even though the actors were enduring sweltering summer heat. Other parts of the picture were filmed by a second unit in the Maasai tribal areas of Kenya, as well as in the country’s capital, Nairobi. At that time, Spielberg remained in the U.S. to edit the film. The production spent its first three weeks at Universal City Studios in Los Angeles, CA, as stated in another Feb 1986 AmCin article.
       The picture provoked controversy in the African American community before and after its 18 Dec 1985 domestic release in 200 theaters. On 1 Nov 1985, both LA Weekly and HR stated that the twenty members of the Coalition Against Black Exploitation (CABE) released formal complaints about the film’s alleged degrading representation of black men and the “subtle promotion of lesbianism,” claiming that such portrayals conveyed “a negative message that is potentially destructive to the black family.” The organization demanded access to the shooting script and meetings to discuss changes in the narrative. Although Warner Bros. representatives were reportedly “sympathetic,” and CABE received a letter signed by both Quincy Jones and Alice Walker, the filmmakers did not agree to a meeting, and a demonstration took place in front of Jones’s Los Angeles office on 9 Nov 1985, as reported in the 10 Nov 1985 LAHExam. Several days after the film’s opening, a 20 Dec 1985 LAT article noted the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) joined CABE in its concern about the depiction of black men, but hailed the production for employing more African American actors and filmmakers than any motion picture to date since Sounder (1972, see entry). Although CABE sponsored another protest outside the AMPAS Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles on 17 Dec 1985, several members admitted most of the group had not yet seen the picture. African American California State Assemblywoman, Maxine Waters, who organized an exclusive screening for the Black Woman’s Forum, argued that the film was not “degrading or dehumanizing.”
       One week after its release, the film was honored as the National Board of Review’s Best Film of 1985, and Whoopi Goldberg was singled out as Best Actress. Although the picture garnered mixed reviews from both critics and audiences, it outperformed all other Christmas 1985 releases, as noted in a 28 Dec 1985 LAT article. A Warner Bros. press release in AMPAS library files announced that the film earned $1,710,333 its opening weekend, then received an eighty-five percent increase per theater in its second weekend, grossing $3,162,958 from 27 Dec 1985 to 29 Dec 1985 in 202 domestic engagements. In a 5 Jan 1986 Chicago Tribune article, critic Gene Siskel interviewed two black leaders about the film’s controversy and noted that Walker gave the film a “timid endorsement” due to its “softened version” of her novel. However, Walker attended a red-carpet screening of the picture one month after its release in her hometown of Eatonton, as stated in the 21 Jan 1986 Daily News. There, the film was released in a formerly segregated theater, where Walker and other black residents were once forced to sit in the balcony. The Color Purple continued to gain momentum, and on 23 Jan 1986, HR announced that Warner Bros. added 352 theaters the previous Friday, 17 Jan 1986, and the film had earned a four day gross of $6,819,607 over Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday weekend, amassing a net total of $26,148,105 to date.
       The film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards in the following categories: Actress in a Leading Role (Whoopi Goldberg), Actress in a Supporting Role (Margaret Avery), Actress in a Supporting Role (Oprah Winfrey), Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup, Music (Original Score), Music (Original Song, “Miss Celie’s Blues [Sister]”), Writing, and Best Picture. According to a 7 Feb 1986 LAT article, film industry insiders were surprised by the omission of Spielberg as Best Director, and speculation circulated that other filmmakers were envious of his success, that there was an error in the Price-Waterhouse computer calculations, or that voters were swayed by the film’s negative reviews. Many colleagues complained that Spielberg turned the sophisticated, dark narrative into a clichéd, feel-good fairy tale. They also commented that the producer-director may have wished to mark his first Academy Award win with The Color Purple, since he had been nominated previously three times without receiving recognition. However, Spielberg was honored with the Directors Guild of America’s (DGA) Best Director award, and noted in his acceptance speech that his colleagues may have been “making a statement” against his Academy Awards’ snub, according to a 10 Mar 1986 LAT article. When The Color Purple failed to win any of its eleven Academy Award nominations, the Hollywood-Beverly Hills, CA, chapter of the NAACP, which had previously voiced its concern about the film’s depiction of black men, issued a formal complaint against the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). The 26 Mar 1986 HR cited the NAACP’s claim that the slight was a “black-out,” a term used to illustrate the film industry’s suppression of African American projects.
       Ten years later, a 6 Feb 1996 LAT article announced the publication of Alice Walker’s latest book, The Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult, which described her experiences during production of The Color Purple and the ensuing controversy. According to LAT, Walker not only endured, in her words, “the severe criticism, bashing, [and] trashing” of her literary work and her decision to adapt it into a Spielberg film, but also suffered great personal difficulties during the time of the film’s release. Walker’s mother suffered a stroke, leaving her paralyzed, and Walker, herself, feared she was dying from Lyme disease. At the same time, Walker’s romantic partner, Robert Allen, announced he had been having an affair because he was envious of Walker’s success. Although Walker had reservations about the film version of The Color Purple, she noted that she never expected the picture to replicate the novel, and that “successful does not mean perfect… successful is adequate.”

      End credits include "Special thanks" to: the Huntley Family, David Dykis, the North Carolina Film Commission, the Anson County Historical Society, and the citizens of Anson and Union Counties, North Carolina.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Feb 1986
pp. 50-56.
American Cinematographer
Feb 1986
pp. 58-64.
Box Office
8 Jan 1979.
---
Chicago Tribune
5 Jan 1986
Section 13, pp. 16-19.
Daily News
21 Jan 1986.
---
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jan 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Apr 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 1985
p. 3, 16.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Mar 1986.
---
LA Weekly
1 Nov 1985.
---
LAHExam
24 May 1985.
---
LAHExam
10 Nov 1985.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Feb 1985.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Dec 1985
p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 1985
p. 1, 20.
Los Angeles Times
28 Dec 1985
p. 1, 7.
Los Angeles Times
7 Feb 1986
Section VI, p. 1, 8.
Los Angeles Times
10 Mar 1986
Section VI, p. 1, 9.
Los Angeles Times
6 Feb 1996
Section E, pp. 1-2.
New York Times
15 Dec 1985
p. 1, 23.
New York Times
18 Dec 1985
p. 18.
Publishers Weekly
6 Sep 1985
p. 45, 48.
San Francisco Focus
Dec 1985
p. 92, 94, 96-97, 218.
Variety
18 Dec 1985
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Steven Spielberg Film
In association with Quincy Jones
A Guber-Peters Company production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir, Kenya
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
In assoc with
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cameraman/Op, Kenya
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
Focus puller, Kenya
Lighting gaffer
Gaffer/loader, Kenya
Elec best boy
Elec, Kenya
Key grip
Grip best boy
Dolly grip
Grip, Kenya
Still photog
Set photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Illustrator
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Lead man
Set dresser
Const coord
Stand by painter
Greensman
COSTUMES
Women's cost supv
Men's cost supv
Women's set cost
Men's set cost
Hats by
Ward, Kenya
MUSIC
Mus supv
Supv mus ed
Supv mus ed
Mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
Mus scoring assoc
Mus scoring preprod
Mus scoring preprod
Pre-rec mus mixer
Mus adpt and orch
Mus adpt and orch
Mus adpt and orch
Mus adpt and orch
Mus adpt and orch
Mus adpt and orch
Mus adpt and orch
Mus adpt and orch
Mus adpt and orch
Mus adpt and orch
Mus adpt and orch
Mus adpt and orch
Mus adpt and orch
Mus adpt and orch
Pre-rec mus rec at
Mus dept asst
Mus dept asst
Mus dept asst
Mus dept asst
Mus dept asst
Shug Avery's vocals performed by
Christ Memorial Church of God in Christ Choir arr
Christ Memorial Church of God in Christ Choir arr
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom man
Cable man
Supv sd ed
Supv ADR ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd ed
Supv foley ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley by
Foley by
Foley mixer
ADR rec at
ADR mixer
ADR ed
Asst ADR ed
Asst ADR ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Titles & opticals by
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Make-up des
Supv hairstylist
Hairstylist
Make-up artist
Make-up artist
Make-up artist
Hairdresser, Kenya
PRODUCTION MISC
Loc casting
Casting, Kenya
Project consultant
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Prod coord
Prod secy
Prod controller
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Antique picture cars
DGA trainee
Asst to Mr. Spielberg
Secy to Mr. Spielberg
Asst to Ms. Kennedy
Asst to Mr. Marshall
Asst to Mr. Jones
Dialect coach
Wrangler
Animal trainer
First aid
First aid
Craft service
Post prod supv
Post prod asst
Projectionist
Prod assoc
Prod assoc
Prod assoc
Prod assoc
Prod assoc
Prod assoc
Prod assoc
Teacher
Teacher
Research
Research
Research
Research
Research
Prod supv, Kenya
London contact, Kenya
Loc accountant, Kenya
Prod assoc, Kenya
Camp mgr/Animal consultant, Kenya
Asst camp mgr, Kenya
Prod consultant, Kenya
STAND INS
Stunt double
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Lab consultant
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker (New York, 1982).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
"Sister's Theme," composed by Quincy Jones, Jeremy Lubbock and Rod Tempteron
"Proud Theme," composed by Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton and Jeremy Lubbock.
SONGS
"Miss Celie's Blues (Sister)," music by Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton, lyrics by Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton and Lionel Richie
"Makidada," music by Quincy Jones, lyrics by Quincy Jones, Menno Meyjes and Rod Temperton
"I Ain't Gonna Sing No Mo," written by Quincy Jones and Saunders Sonny Terry
+
SONGS
"Miss Celie's Blues (Sister)," music by Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton, lyrics by Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton and Lionel Richie
"Makidada," music by Quincy Jones, lyrics by Quincy Jones, Menno Meyjes and Rod Temperton
"I Ain't Gonna Sing No Mo," written by Quincy Jones and Saunders Sonny Terry
"Junk Bucket Blues," written by Porter Grainger, performed by Get Happy Band, courtesy of CBS Records
"The Dirty Dozens," written by J. Mayo Williams and Rufus Perryman
"Don't Make Me No Never Mind (Slow Drag)," written by Quincy Jones, James Ingram and Roy Gaines
"Heaven Belongs To You," written by Andrae Crouch and Saundra Crouch
"Old Ship Of Zion," written by Thomas A. Dorsey
"Maybe God Is Tryin' To Tell You Somethin'," written by Quincy Jones, Andrae Crouch, David Del Sesto and Bill Maxwell
"My Heart," written by Lillian Armstrong, performed by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, courtesy of CBS Records
"Hot Lips," written by Henry Busse, Henry Lange and Lou Davis, performed by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, courtesy of RCA Records
"High Life," from "Sounds of West Africa," courtesy of Lyrichord Discs, Inc.
"Scarification Chant and Katutoku Corinne," conducted and written by Caiphus Semenya, vocal by Letta Mbulu
"Body and Soul," music by John Green, lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton, performed by Coleman Hawkins and his Orchestra, courtesy of RCA Records.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 December 1985
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 18 December 1985
Production Date:
began early June 1985 in Los Angeles, CA, and North Carolina
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
20 March 1986
Copyright Number:
PA290480
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo in selected theatres
Color
Color by DeLuxe®
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
152
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27996
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the winter of 1909 Georgia, a fourteen-year-old African American girl named Celie gives birth to a daughter, Olivia, as her younger sister, Nettie, acts as midwife. Since the baby was conceived through incest, Celie’s father, Pa, seizes the infant and warns his daughter to keep the pregnancy a secret. Celie had previously conceived another child through incest, a son named Adam, but he was also removed from her care. Sometime later, a prominent local farmer named Albert Johnson asks Pa’s permission to marry young Nettie. Refusing, the old man offers Celie instead, and Albert takes the girl to his plantation. There, she calls him “Mister,” acts as a domestic servant, and endures his abuse. In the spring, Celie believes she recognizes her seven-month-old daughter, Olivia, in town. She follows Corrine, the baby’s supposed mother, to learn the child was adopted by Reverend Samuel. However, Celie remains uncertain whether the child is her own. Back at the farm, Celie is visited by Nettie, who escaped Pa. Celie warns Nettie to leave the farm before Albert has his way with her, but the sisters are inseparable, and Nettie teaches Celie to read. One day, Albert attempts to rape Nettie on her route to school. When she retaliates, Albert violently forces her to leave, and she and Celie are separated yet again. Nettie promises to write to her sister. Sometime later, Albert receives a letter announcing the imminent arrival of his former lover, a diva named Shug Avery. Although Celie hopes for mail from Nettie, Albert declares she will never see letters from her sister. ... +


In the winter of 1909 Georgia, a fourteen-year-old African American girl named Celie gives birth to a daughter, Olivia, as her younger sister, Nettie, acts as midwife. Since the baby was conceived through incest, Celie’s father, Pa, seizes the infant and warns his daughter to keep the pregnancy a secret. Celie had previously conceived another child through incest, a son named Adam, but he was also removed from her care. Sometime later, a prominent local farmer named Albert Johnson asks Pa’s permission to marry young Nettie. Refusing, the old man offers Celie instead, and Albert takes the girl to his plantation. There, she calls him “Mister,” acts as a domestic servant, and endures his abuse. In the spring, Celie believes she recognizes her seven-month-old daughter, Olivia, in town. She follows Corrine, the baby’s supposed mother, to learn the child was adopted by Reverend Samuel. However, Celie remains uncertain whether the child is her own. Back at the farm, Celie is visited by Nettie, who escaped Pa. Celie warns Nettie to leave the farm before Albert has his way with her, but the sisters are inseparable, and Nettie teaches Celie to read. One day, Albert attempts to rape Nettie on her route to school. When she retaliates, Albert violently forces her to leave, and she and Celie are separated yet again. Nettie promises to write to her sister. Sometime later, Albert receives a letter announcing the imminent arrival of his former lover, a diva named Shug Avery. Although Celie hopes for mail from Nettie, Albert declares she will never see letters from her sister. Years pass, and Celie improves her reading to escape Albert’s brutality. In summer 1916, Albert meets his son Harpo’s pregnant fiancée, Sofia. Although he forbids the marriage, the two wed after the birth of their first child. When the couple moves to the Johnson farm, both Albert and Celie advise young Harpo to beat the brazen girl into submission. Instead, Sofia punches Harpo in the eye and vows to fight for her dignity. Although Harpo and Sofia have more children, their brawls continue and Sofia leaves with their offspring. One day, during a rainstorm, Albert returns home with an ailing Shug Avery and Celie is smitten by the sickly, yet unabashed, starlet. Later, Celie bathes Shug and the woman cries about the loss of her pastor father’s affection. Meanwhile, Albert’s father, Old Mr., arrives unexpectedly and renounces his son’s romance with the free-spirited, promiscuous Shug, but Celie secretly spits in his water. In summer 1922, Albert, Harpo, and their musician friend, Swain, build a makeshift, lakeside saloon called “Harpo’s” for Shug to reestablish her singing career. There, crowds defy Prohibition to indulge in alcohol and Shug’s seductive spectacles. Celie is mesmerized one night by a suggestive song called “Miss Celie’s Blues.” Just then, Harpo’s estranged wife, Sofia, arrives with a gentleman friend, and Harpo coaxes her onto the dance floor. However, Harpo’s latest lover, Squeak, is displeased by the reunion and slaps Sofia. After returning home from the ensuing brawl, Celie dresses in Shug’s cocktail dress and smiles for the first time. However, her joy dissipates when Shug announces her intention to leave the Johnson farm. As Shug inquires about Celie’s relationship with Albert, the girl reveals he has never cared about her happiness, and he beats her when Shug is not around. Declaring her love for the girl, Shug says Celie is still a virgin and kisses her. In the coming days, Shug visits her preacher father and he ignores her. When Shug leaves for Memphis, Tennessee, Celie plans to escape, but Albert interferes. Sometime later, in town, Sofia refuses to be a servant for Miss Millie, the mayor’s wife, then punches the mayor in retaliation for his verbal abuse. Eight years later, in spring 1930, a gray-haired and defeated Sofia is released from prison, only to become Miss Millie’s maid. On Christmas day, Miss Millie drives Sofia to reunite for the day with her three estranged children and extended family, including Harpo. However, Miss Millie fears the black men are attacking her when they help maneuver her car and she orders Sofia to leave. During Easter 1935, Shug returns to the Johnson farm with her new, wealthy husband, Grady. As Albert and Grady drunkenly discuss their romantic rivalry, Shug checks the mail and finds a letter from Celie’s sister, Nettie, who is now living in Africa. The letter confirms that Celie’s two children, Olivia and Adam, were adopted by Corrine, the lady Celie saw in town, and her husband, Reverend Samuel. Nettie joined the missionaries on their journey to Africa as the children’s nanny. Shug and Celie search the house and find Nettie’s previous letters hidden under the floorboards. Reading Nettie’s old letters, Celie learns about her sister’s life in Africa, and the violence of white colonists. However, Nettie promises to return with the children as soon as they meet the approval of U.S. immigration. Sometime later, Albert beats Celie, demanding she shave his face, and she prepares to murder him, but Shug comes to the rescue. Meanwhile, in Africa, Olivia and Adam are initiated into a native tribe as knives slice through their cheeks. In Georgia, at Easter dinner, Shug announces she is bringing Celie to Memphis. When Albert objects, Celie defies her husband, and Sofia, who has returned home from her servitude to Miss Millie, regains her impetuous nature. After holding a knife to Albert’s throat, Celie leaves the farm, vowing that her husband will suffer for his offenses. By fall 1937, Albert’s farm is decrepit and his face unshaven. That winter, Celie returns for Pa’s funeral. Realizing the man was really her stepfather, Celie is relieved that her children are exempted from an incestual lineage, and she inherits the flourishing homestead that once belonged to her biological father. Sometime later, Celie and Shug walk through the field of purple flowers surrounding the house and Shug declares that God is offended when people fail to notice the divine glory of color. Inspired by natural beauty, Shug resumes singing at Harpo’s saloon one Sunday. However, Shug’s pastor father hears his daughter’s song at his nearby parish and orders the chorus to sing louder and drown out Shug’s voice. Defying her father’s scorn, Shug sings along with the gospel and the saloon patrons, including Celie and Sofia, follow her to the church. There, Shug bellows the Christian verse to her estranged father and they embrace. Meanwhile, back at the Johnson farm, Albert receives a letter addressed to Celie from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. In an attempt to redeem himself, Albert retrieves his hidden savings of cash, goes to the immigration bureau, and secures the safe return of Celie’s family. Sometime later, Celie sees strangers on the horizon of her purple flower field and realizes the African visitors are Nettie, as well as Adam and Olivia. Watching the joyful reunion from Celie’s porch, Shug notices Albert in the distance and recognizes his contribution to Celie’s happiness. +

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

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