Pinky parents guide

Pinky Parent Guide

Overall B+

Born with skin light enough to pass for white, Pinky Johnson (Jeanne Crain) has denied her black heritage while attending a northern nursing school. Returning to the south, she is faced with living a lie and disappointing her Grandmother (Ethel Waters), or accepting the truth and giving up the man she loves. Oddly, it's a harder decision than it at first appears.

Release date September 29, 1949

Violence B
Sexual Content B
Profanity A-
Substance Use C+

Why is Pinky rated Not Rated? The MPAA rated Pinky Not Rated

Parent Movie Review

She was a freak of nature. Born of Negro heritage, the genetic accident responsible for her light skin was also the reason she was christened Pinky Johnson (Jeanne Crain). Growing up as a misfit amongst her own kind and resented by the surrounding white community, her Granny (Ethel Waters) scrimps and saves her meager wage as a washer woman to buy Pinky an opportunity to go to school up north.

So why does the young woman, who has been accepted at face value in a Boston nursing school, return to the southern shanty town upon her graduation? Granny is convinced it’s because the girl want to pay back her indebtedness by sharing her knowledge with oppressed people. After all that was the dream the elderly woman sacrificed so hard for. Perhaps it has something to do with a very personal letter from a Dr. Thomas Adams (William Lundigan) that arrives addressed to a Patricia Johnson.

Whatever the reason, it is doesn’t take long for Pinky to fear she has made a grave mistake. The way she is treated by sales clerks, policemen, the local judge, and even a couple of drunken boys looking for a good time, is as different as black and white once the truth about her color is revealed. (The few content concerns in this film occur in conjunction with these encounters, such as the uttering of racial slurs, authority figures abusing there office and striking a woman across the face, as well as some mild sexual remarks made when two characters try unsuccessfully to restrain and manhandle a woman.)

However, her misgivings have to be set aside when Miss Em (Ethyl Barrymore) takes ill. A relic of the Old South, the once wealthy lady still lives like an aristocrat despite her loss of fortune. Granny, who considers the granddame to be a friend, even continues to slave over her daily demands. Expecting Pinky to do the same, she offers her granddaughter’s professional services free of charge when a nurse is required. Out of love for her grandmother, Pinky swallows her personal prejudices and performs the bitter duty.

Ironically, the experience proves to be liberating. As she spends time in servitude to Miss Em, Pinky and her patient develop a mutual respect and appreciation. Suddenly, the girl who once passed herself off for white begins to understand who she really is and see a vision of what kind of role she can fill in the world.

Considering it was made in 1949, Pinky still provides some important insights for contemporary audiences. It asks that we examine what criteria we use when judging others, learn to be true to who we are, and dare to have bigger dreams. Armed with this advice, we too can find the courage to fight for a future full of rose-colored possibilities.

Beyond the movie ratings: What parents need to know about Pinky...

As is often the case in older movies, many characters are shown smoking. Painkillers are referred to (or accused of) doping a patient. Alcohol consumption is also implied, especially when two drunken men accost a young woman and try to hold and fondle her against her will. Some mild sexual remarks and racial slurs are uttered. A young couple exchange kisses. A police officer slaps a woman’s face, while the local judicial system handles African-Americans in a partial or condescending way.

Theatrical release September 29, 1949. Updated

Pinky Parents' Guide

How do the attitudes of the time period in which this film was made affect some of the conclusions it comes to? How might it be different if it were made today? Do popular public opinions still influence movies and their messages today?

Pinky accuses the white people of being prejudice, yet what prejudices does she carry? Why is it easier to see the faults of others than those of ourselves? Who would you consider to have the least prejudice? Why?

Both Granny and Miss Em tell Pinky that no one deserves respect if they deny who they really are. What do you think they mean? Do you agree or disagree with their council. What characters, besides Pinky, are pretending to be someone they are not?

Home Video

The most recent home video release of Pinky movie is January 9, 2006. Here are some details…

DVD Release Date: January 10, 2006
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment presents Pinky on DVD with an accompanying audio commentary by film historian Kenneth Geist. The only other extra feature is the film’s theatrical trailer. The audio track is available in English (Mono and Stereo), with close captioning.

Related home video titles:

The unfair treatment of African-Americans by the judicial system also plays a part in the script of To Kill a Mocking Bird. The belief that skin color is an indication of intelligence plays a crucial role in the way Australian Aboriginals are treated in the film Rabbit-Proof Fence. The cast system of the Old South is captured in the movie Gone With The Wind.