A Patch of Blue, from 1965, was nominated for 5 Oscars, it stars Sidney Poitier and Shelley Winters, Elizabeth Hartman, Ivan Dixon & Wallace Ford.
The movie is an adaptation of a book titled Be Ready with Bells & Drums, which the producers didn’t like.
The director’s wife suggested A Patch of Blue, from an old saying in the English countryside - if there’s even a small patch of blue in the sky, it might be a fine day. So that’s where the title comes from.
Playing Gordon is Sidney Poitier, who was the first male black actor to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award for The Defiant Ones in 1958.
And, in 1963, he became the first African-American to win an Oscar for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field.
The producer & director wanted Sidney Poitier from the start and he agreed to do the film for half his salary…….if he got 10% of the picture. They agreed and it turned out to be a great deal for him - he got about ten times his salary from his 10%.
Poitier was born in Miami, where his Bahamian parents traveled to sell produce from their farm on Cat Island. He grew up in the Bahamas and when he was 15 his parents sent him to live with his brother in Miami because he was turning into a juvenile delinquent. At 18, he moved to New York to try acting.
When he first started, he got rejected over and over because of his thick Bahamian accent, and for a while he was so poor that he had to sleep on the benches in the bus station. He got his break when he joined the American Negro Theater and soon he was on Broadway and then in films.
He became a very successful actor and director and is now semi-retired from acting and has another career. Since 1997, he has been the Bahamian ambassador to Japan.
Ivan Dixon, playing Poitier’s brother Mark, got his start as a stunt double for Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones. His role in this film won him the part that he would become better known for, Sgt. James 'Kinch' Kinchloe, the radio technician on the TV sitcom Hogan's Heroes.
But he felt overshadowed by the flashier roles of stars Bob Crane (Col. Hogan), Werner Klemperer (Col. Klink) and John Banner (Sgt Schultz), and eventually left the series.
He became a very successful director and directed hundreds of 1970s and 80s TV episodes including The Waltons, The Rockford Files, Magnum, P.I., Quantum Leap, the A-Team, In the Heat of the Night and more.
Dixon also directed some films, including the controversial 1973 crime drama The Spook Who Sat by the Door, the fictional story of the first black CIA officer who planned a revolution in the U.S. The blaxploitation-era movie didn’t do very well (the title probably didn’t help) and was quickly pulled from theaters but has since gained cult status on video.
Responding to the controversy, Dixon said that he was only trying to show black anger, not encourage armed revolution.
Nominated for four Oscars, Shelley Winters was born Shirley Schrift and throughout her career appeared in hundreds of films and TV shows. She won 2 Oscars, 1 Emmy and 1 Golden Globe. Her Academy Awards were for tonight’s film and for her performance in The Diary of Anne Frank.
The role most people remember her for was in the original Poseidon Adventure. In the 1970s and 1980s, Shelley developed into an oddball TV personality, making appearances on all the talk shows with juicy behind-the-scenes Hollywood tales.
She published two scandalous tell-all autobiographies and claimed affairs with just about every leading man in Hollywood, including Errol Flynn, Burt Lancaster, Marlon Brando, William Holden, Sean Connery and Clark Gable.
Playing Ole Pa is Wallace Ford, who was born Samuel Grundy, in England, and somehow as an infant, was separated from his parents and ended up in an orphanage in Canada.
He lived in seventeen foster homes until he ran away at the age of 11 and joined a Canadian vaudeville show. Three years later he quit to join a friend riding the rails in the U.S.
But his buddy was killed by a railroad car as they were jumping on a train and Grundy honored him by taking his name, Wallace Ford. Ford was a character actor in over 200 films from 1930 to 1965 and a favorite of director John Ford.
He was in poor health when making tonight’s film and it turned out to be his last role.
Elizabeth Hartman plays Selina and, in her very first movie role, was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for her performance. At the time of her Oscar nomination in 1966, she was 22 and was the youngest Best Actress nominee ever.
Hayley Mills was the director’s first choice but she wanted too much money, so auditions were held and Hartman got the part. Being new to the movies, Hartman learned the entire script and knew everyone’s dialog.
When Shelley Winters would occasionally forget a line, Hartman would prompt her, which really annoyed Winters, who didn’t appreciate being upstaged by a newcomer.
To help add realism to her performance, Hartman wore special contact lenses that were slightly opaque and severely limited her vision. She went on to appear in several other films and TV shows but her career didn’t match her early expectations.
Her last film was as the voice of Mrs. Brisby in the animated film The Secret of NIMH in 1982.
As she saw her once promising career decline, she suffered from acute depression and sadly, in June of 1987 she jumped to her death from a fifth-floor window - she was only 43.
The director commented that something happened while filming this movie that had never happened to him before. When shooting the city scenes where Poitier shows Selina how to cross the street, he was shocked at being constantly interrupted by store owners who wanted to be paid for having their storefronts filmed in the background.