racechanging: Pinky


Pinky (Jeanne Crain), a young light-skinned black woman, qualifies as a nurse in Boston and then returns home to the Deep South to visit her grandmother. Pinky plans to return to Boston, where she has been passing as a white woman and has become engaged to a young white doctor. The discrimination she faces reinforces her determination to return to her life in Boston, but her grandmother persuades her to nurse Miss Em, a local wealthy white woman, who has fallen ill. Miss Em dies and leaves Pinky all her property causing a violent reaction from her relatives and the white townsfolk. But Pinky wins through, decides to accept herself for what she is and converts Miss Em’s home into a school for young black nurses.

For its time it was a challenging, albeit deeply compromised, movie, and undoubtedly a big risk for Darryl F Zanuck even while casting a white actress as Pinky.

But to accept Jeanne Crain as a black woman – however light-skinned – requires more than the usual suspension of disbelief; as Kenneth Geist notes in the DVD commentary the reason Pinky keeps getting mistaken for a white woman is because Jeanne Crain is so obviously a white woman.

The makeup

Ben Nye was the makeup artist.