The River Niger (April 14, 1976)

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The River Niger
 

Released on April 14, 1976: James Earl Jones is a painter who dreams of becoming a poet who struggles with a dying wife, a son who was kicked out of the Air Force and a street gang that may get them all killed.

Produced by Sidney Beckerman

Directed by Krishna Shah

The Actors: James Earl Jones (Johnny Williams), Cicely Tyson (Mattie Williams), Louis Gossett Jr. (Dr. Dudley Stanton), Glynn Thurman (Jeff Williams), Jonelle Allen (Ann Vanderguild), Roger E. Mosley (Big Moe Hayes), Ralph Wilcox (Al), Teddy Wilson (Chips), Charles Weldon (Skeeter), Shirley Jo Finney (Gail), Hilda Haynes (Wilhelmina Geneva Brown), Zakes Mokae (unknown), Ed Crick (white policeman, Lieutenant Staples), Tony Burton (black policeman)

 
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Dancing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

I enjoy watching movies from the 1930's and the 1940's because I wasn't alive then and am always fascinated to learn how people lived, loved and died in those old days. In 1976, when this movie was made, I was a married man of 25, but as a small town country boy only saw big city life on television. I've gotta tell you, watching this today, so many years later, although I remember the slang, the attitudes, the hair styles and those big old cars, I never knew what real life was like in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, and am just blown away by this story. I have never been exposed to life in an African American neighborhood in movies or on television that was presented in such a believable, realistic way. After being a smash hit on Broadway, this story was put on film with some of the biggest African American stars of the day, and I sit here in awe of their performance and the story itself. The amazing James Earl Jones is Johnny Williams, a house painter who has visions of becoming a poet. His unfinished masterpiece is titled The River Niger, and he hopes to finish it one day. His wife Mattie, played by Cicely Tyson, has the big 'C' - in 1976 a sure sentence of death. His son Jeff, who he hoped would become an Air Force pilot has flunked out of the academy and has returned home to the rough neighborhood and the street gang he belonged to before joining the Air Force. Louis Gossett Jr. is the family doctor and best friend of Johnny Williams, and just as I am beginning to like this family and start cheering for them . . . . Disaster strikes. Jeff's old street gang is planning a bombing against the pigs, but someone is leaking information to the police and when the gang attacks, police are all around them. After surviving a blazing gun battle the four gang members flee to the only place that they can think of . . . Johnny Williams' house. The police come up the street with screaming sirens and surround the house, while inside the gang members argue about who the snitch was and how to kill him. Johnny's son Jeff makes a startling admission in the middle of the argument as his mother, girlfriend, grandmother and Johnny watch in horror. Now, with the cops ready to blast their way into the house . . . Johnny is in the kitchen and the gang, along with his wife and mother-in-law and the rest of the family, are in the living room waiting for the police to start their attack. Johnny must do something to save his family. He must do something . . . Johnny does what he needs to do . . . but will it save his family? . . . And even if he can save his family, will it mean his own death? Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show. I warn you that very adult language is used, so invite the kids to watch at your own risk.

Charles Weldon
Charles Weldon
Cicely Tyson in 1976
Cicely Tyson in 1976
Cicely Tyson and Glynn Turman
Cicely Tyson and Glynn Turman
Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones
Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones
Cicely Tyson, Jonelle Allen and Glynn Turman
Cicely Tyson, Jonelle Allen and Glynn Turman
Cicely Tyson
Cicely Tyson
Cicely Tyson
Cicely Tyson
Glynn Turman
Glynn Turman
Glynn Turman and Jonelle Allen
Glynn Turman and Jonelle Allen
Clynn Turman faces Roger E. Mosely
Clynn Turman faces Roger E. Mosely
Glynn Turman proposes to Jonelle Allen
Glynn Turman proposes to Jonelle Allen
Hilda Haynes
Hilda Haynes
Hylda Haynes
Hylda Haynes
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson
James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson
James Earl Jones and Jonelle Allen
James Earl Jones and Jonelle Allen
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones
Jonelle Allen
Jonelle Allen
Jonelle Allen and Glynn Turman
Jonelle Allen and Glynn Turman
Jonelle Allen and Glynn Turman
Jonelle Allen and Glynn Turman
Jonelle Allen and Louis Gossett Jr.
Jonelle Allen and Louis Gossett Jr.
Jonelle Allen and Teddy Wilson
Jonelle Allen and Teddy Wilson
Louis Gossett Jr.
Louis Gossett Jr.
Louis Gossett Jr. and Hilda Haynes
Louis Gossett Jr. and Hilda Haynes
Louis Gossett Jr.
Louis Gossett Jr.
Louis Gossett Jr. and James Earl Jones
Louis Gossett Jr. and James Earl Jones
Louis Gossett Jr. and Jonelle Allen and Glynn Turman
Louis Gossett Jr. and Jonelle Allen and Glynn Turman
Louis Gossett Jr. and Jonelle Allen
Louis Gossett Jr. and Jonelle Allen
Ralph Wilcox
Ralph Wilcox
Ralph Wilcox, Charles Weldon, Roger Mosley and Shirley Jo Finney
Ralph Wilcox, Charles Weldon, Roger Mosley and Shirley Jo Finney
Ralph Wilcox and Teddy Wilson
Ralph Wilcox and Teddy Wilson
Roger E. Mosley
Roger E. Mosley
Roger E. Mosely and Shirley Jo Finney
Roger E. Mosely and Shirley Jo Finney
Roger Mosley
Roger Mosley
Shirley Jo Finney
Shirley Jo Finney
Teddy Wilson
Teddy Wilson
Teddy Wilson, Glynn Turman and Jonelle Allen
Teddy Wilson, Glynn Turman and Jonelle Allen
Teddy Wilson and Jonelle Allen
Teddy Wilson and Jonelle Allen