Cornbread, Earl and Me

CORNBREAD, EARL & ME. 1974

Director: Joseph Manduke

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Hard to believe this beautifully acted emotionally real gem of a film is from 1974, long predating the advent of Spike Lee.

Adapted from the Ronald L. Fair's 1966 novel Hog Butcher, the story is gutwrenching but not devoid of hope & heroism. Child-actor Laurence Fishburne is already a mesmerizing presence on the screen.

There's not a hint of the blaxsploitation era out of which this great film arose. Since nothing else Manduke directed is anywhere near this brilliant, it must have been screenwriter (& young adult novelist) Leonard Lamensdorf who deserved some sort of award.

There are few outright villains in this piece. There are many people who want to be good but fail. Cops accidentally kill a local hero, & the resultant cover-up turns a supreme tragedy into outright evil. Of the witnesses, most are frightened into silence, shattered by their own cowardice. And the very healing of humanity seems to rest on the shoulders of one brave, heartbroken boy.

A beautiful drama of childhood in Dayton, a beautiful family weeper with depth & compassion, far less condemnatory than could've been justified, Cornbread, Earl, & Me deserves to be on lists of classic cinema though it appears not to be nearly as well known as it ought to be.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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