The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974)

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The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is a 1971 novel by Ernest J. Gaines. The story depicts the struggles of African Americans as seen through the eyes of the narrator, a woman named Jane Pittman. She tells of the major events of her life from the time she was a young slave girl in the American South at the end of the Civil War. The novel was dramatized in a TV movie in 1974, starring Cicely Tyson. The book was made into an award-winning television movie, broadcast on CBS in 1974. The film holds importance as one of the first made-for-TV movies to deal with African-American characters with depth and sympathy. It preceded the ground-breaking television miniseries Roots by three years. The film culminates with Miss Pittman joining the American civil rights movement in 1962 at age 110. Critics have noted the language to be difficult to understand by viewers not familiar with the dialect and accent of the characters.

The movie was directed by John Korty; the screenplay was written by Tracy Keenan Wynn and executive produced by Roger Gimbel. It starred Cicely Tyson in the lead role, as well as Michael Murphy, Richard Dysart, Katherine Helmond and Odetta. The film was shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and was notable for its use of very realistic special effects makeup by Stan Winston and Rick Baker for the lead character, who is shown from ages 23 to 110.

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