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White Mama

1 rating: 3.0
A movie directed by Jackie Cooper

A fine made-for-television production about an impoverished woman who takes in a young gang member who protects her in exchange for a home.

Director: Jackie Cooper
Release Date: 1980
MPAA Rating: Unrated
1 review about White Mama

WHITE Mama Old Glory W/O

  • Jul 2, 2002
Pros: Davis was outstanding

Cons: film quality a little poor

The Bottom Line: A good look at middle America facing tough times

The second part of my Old Glory trilogy involves veteran actress Bette Davis. A nice woman, getting on in years, facing life after the recent death of her husband. Living on little substance, their savings had all gone to the hospital to pay his extensive debts. To make ends meet, Adele (Davis) decides to take in a young man that is caught up in the system.

I had my routines before all y'all
Your whole life is coming apart at the seams
You ain't nothing but a car thief biting routines

B. T. (Ernest Harden, Jr.) is supposed to be a bad boy. A criminal. He's a car thief, 16 years old, and tries to be the toughest black boy in the hood. He talks the talk but frankly, he just don't walk the walk. He has a dream, however, to become a professional fighter.

For a mere $100 a week, Adele takes B.T. into her life and her life begins to change dramatically. As does B.T.'s.

Being a street kid, B.T. knows all the people on the block, including the bag ladies. Most of them look after him when he is out, his personal favorite is Three Bag Lady (Eileen Heckart), but there are a few crazies out there as well.

Finally disaster strikes, the rent controlled apartment where Adele & B.T. live is being brought down to put up housing. (personally, this isn't a concept I understand, there was already housing there) Adele must find new digs, but under her financial straits she cannot find recourse. She will never go on welfare, nor will she take hand-outs, even from B.T.

Bag lady you gone hurt your back
Dragging all them bags like that
I guess nobody ever told you
All you must hold on to
Is you, is you, is you

We soon find Adele as part of the mindless troop of street ladies, pounding the pavement and riding the buses to avoid rain. As Three Bag Lady tells her, we don't even talk about winter, we lose a lot of us in the winter to death.

Bette Davis was nominated for best actress for her part in this movie. I think she should have won, hands down. From the beginning to the end of the movie she portrays the complete lady, even when walking the streets. This was the time, and she was of the ilk, when nice suits, hats and gloves were worn. Hair done just so, hose, good shoes, matching purse.

Watching her deterioration from the beginning of the movie, to street walking, and back again was remarkable. It also brought forth the thought that in reality, we are all just an impersonal letter away from her circumstances (unless you are independently wealthy of course). Living hand to mouth, little chance to salt a little away for the future, future being controlled by others.

Ernest Harden, Jr. was adorable and controlled at the same time. It wasn't hard to see beneath his outer expressions to the soft core of his being. Sure he tried his best to be a hard rock, but frankly, there was just too much sweetie to pull it off. Eileen Heckart was stunning as Three Bag Lady.

This movie was directed by Jackie Cooper who is the only actor, male or female, to earn a Best Actor or Best Actress nomination for an Academy Award before their 18th birthday. Sixteen other actors have earned Oscar nominations as children, but all were in the supporting categories. [3] It was written by Robert C. S. Downs.

An understated but great movie. Video was a little gritty and coloration wasn't the best, but I was pleased just the same. It is a reality driven movie, full of character acting, no special effects or explosions and I'm even pushed to remember a single foul word expressed in the movie. I wouldn't be ashamed to own this movie.

Stars: Bette Davis .... Adele Malone
Ernest Harden Jr. .... B.T. Williamson
Eileen Heckart .... Three Bag Lady
Ernie Hudson .... Counsellor


[1] Car Thief by The Beastie Boys
[2] Bag Lady by ERYKAH BADU
[3] from IMDB.com, not my own words.

The theme of my Old Glory reviews is life in America and how it has progressed. Starting with the family based life in Where The RED Fern Grows, we have now moved into middle life and middle America with WHITE Mama. My BLUE selection will take us to current America and todays values.

This Old Glory Red, White & Blue write off was dreamed up by Jay1051971 & ariel10575. The following were brave enough to try this challenge: dedemw, jeff_wilder78, Tom Barnes, Beckish, Donnie013, SusiDee34, Aerocat, Ned1, Bryan_carey, and our hosts Jay1051971 & ariel10575.

Ariels easy link:



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