Pinky (Jeanne Crain – O. Henry's Full House, Cheaper By The Dozen) is a light skinned African-American who has been studying in the North (Boston) and has become a nurse. She is romantically involved with Dr. Tom Adams (William Lundigan – Love Nest), who is not aware that she is black. Pinky returns to her home town in the South and her grandmother, Dicey (Ethel Waters – The Sound and the Fury), is extremely happy to see her. Her trip back home is not a pleasant one as she has to deal with racism (from blacks and whites), which did not happen to her in the North as she passed for white. As she is trying to leave, her grandmother convinces her to stay to nurse her sick wealthy white neighbour, Miss Em (Ethel Barrymore – Young at Heart, None But The Lonely Heart). Pinky is hesitant because she remembers Miss Em as a racist woman who chased her off her property. Persuaded to stay by guilt, Pinky ends up nursing Miss Em through her last days and they become quite attached to one another. The problems really begin for Pinky when Dr. Joe McGill (Griff Barnett – Duel In The Sun, The Lone Ranger) reads Miss Em's will.
Due to the subject matter this film is an important one in the history of movies. How blacks were treated by whites and how they treated on another is examined in the film. It is not perfect as some stereotypes still prevail, but it allows us a window into race relations in the late 1940s. The acting in the film is also above average, as is indicated by the 3 nominations for Academy Awards (Ethel Barrymore, Jeanne Crain and Ethel Waters) that the actors in the film garnered. The DVD version has been digitally remastered which highlights the beautiful black and white photography of cinematographist Joe MacDonald (Niagara, How To Marry A Millionaire). Another highlight is the excellent score by Alfred Newman (Bus Stop, The Seven Year Itch). Director Elia Kazan (Splendor in the Grass, East of Eden) has made a relevant and interesting film for a mature audience that examines important issues.