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Big Pride, The (1961)

Courtesy of FremantleMedia

Main image of Big Pride, The (1961)
For Drama '61, ITV, tx. 28/5/1961
60 mins, black & white
Production CompanyATV
ProducerHerbert Wise
ScreenplayJan Carew
 Sylvia Wynter
MusicTommy Eytle

Cast: William Marshall (Sutlej); Johnny Sekka (Smallboy Dowling); Barbara Assoon (Dolly Greene); Dan Jackson (Van de Kruze); Leo Carera (Randall)

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Three men break out of prison. One of them has a plan that should ensure their freedom and a rise up the social ladder. However bad luck and old histories dog their progress.

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Scripted by Guyanese writers Jan Carew and Sylvia Wynter, The Big Pride is a powerful drama about the quest for freedom. Classically-trained American actor William Marshall and Senegalese-born Johnny Sekka play convicts, desperate to escape not just the physical bars of the prison cell but also an iniquitous social order that relegates them from birth to the bottom of the heap. However the critique by Dolly Green, in a virtuoso performance by Trinidadian actor Barbara Assoon, exposes a third confinement, ultimately the most devastating of all, the imprisonment of the mind by bitterness and hatred. In the end for Sutlej and Smallboy Dowling there is no fantasy future. There is only death and surrender.

Distinguished actress and singer Nadia Cattouse who was born in British Honduras (now Belize) plays Mrs Dowling, Smallboy's mother.

The Big Pride was first broadcast on 28th May 1961 on ITV as part of ATV's anthology series Drama '61. The richness of the script is delivered in nuanced performances from an experienced cast. Like many of the first plays written by the first generation of Caribbean writers settled in England, the play is located in the Caribbean and addresses political issues that would be immediately understood by a West Indian audience also trying to survive the frequently hostile climate of 1950s England.

The play is remarkable for the sophistication of its arguments. It challenges the revolutionary and the hustler to stand up the rhetoric of their belief systems as well as making pertinent comments about black-white and black-black relationships. The interaction between Sutlej and his ex-girlfriend Dolly Green is riveting. The scene mercilessly loops through the 'he said' and 'she said' of a broken relationship while the brutal realities of class and skin tone differences keep the dialogue both acidic and poignant.

A remarkable drama occasionally inhibited by the limitations of the dramatic conventions of the day in static camera work and a theatrical acting style. However, The Big Pride is a rare example of black drama in early television production that neither stereotypes the characters nor patronises the audience.

Ann Ogidi

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Video Clips
1. Part of a song (2:59)
2. Absent fathers (7:25)
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Assoon, Barbara
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