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Eight months after the Alabama voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, MGM premiered a love story that captured the excitement of a country caught up in the civil rights movement. Sidney Poitier stars as a young man who befriends a blind girl (Elizabeth Hartman). Through their daily meetings, he helps her learn self-reliance and basic living skills she was never taught by her prostitute mother (Shelley Winters) or alcoholic grandfather (Wallace Ford). When MGM picked up the rights to Australian Elizabeth Kata’s 1961 novel Be Ready with Bells and Drums, producer Pandro S. Berman insisted they could only make the movie with Poitier in the lead. Poitier accepted the role and even gave writer-director Guy Green script input. Patty Duke’s managers turned down the female lead for fear of typecasting on the heels of The Miracle Worker (1962), and the production’s low budget made casting another prominent young actress, Hayley Mills, out of the question. Instead, Green held a talent search, interviewing 150 young women before casting Hartman, an Ohio native, to star in her first film. The picture would earn her an Oscar nomination, while its success further cemented Poitier’s stardom. As a vocal civil rights supporter, Winters hated playing a racist, even though the role made her the first person to win two Oscars for Best Supporting Actress. (d. Guy Green, 105m, 35mm)

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