“I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it,” Shug Avery famously says during a watershed moment in one of the best movies ever, which was adapted from one of the best books ever.
Stephen Spielberg’s masterful adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple celebrates its 35th anniversary this year and will be shown in movie theaters across the country during Black History Month.
The epic film, which introduced moviegoers to Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey to the world, has not been seen on the big screen in over three decades.
On Feb. 23, Fathom Events—in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies—brings the story to a new generation of movie fans as well as those who lovingly remember seeing it in theaters back in 1985.
The film—set in rural Georgia during the early 1900s—revolves around the character Celie, whose search for fulfillment in a world closed to her becomes a triumph of pain eclipsed by joy.
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, The Color Purple also starred Danny Glover, Margaret Avery, Rae Dawn Chong, Akosua Busia, William Pugh, Desreta Jackson, Laurence Fishburne and Adolph Caesar.
Quincy Jones served as a producer of the film and oversaw its music.
With much acclaim, the film garnered 11 Academy Award nominations but was met with harsh criticism for perpetuating stereotypes and negative depictions of black men.
Some detractors felt that a black director would’ve been more suited to helm the heavy subject matter of incest, domestic violence, rape, lesbianism, and racism.
Even despite protests from the NAACP, The Color Purple went on to be a huge money maker—grossing $142 million on a $15 million budget.
Twenty years after its release, Winfrey joined Broadway producers Scott Sanders and Carol Fineman to bring the enduring story to the stage for a Broadway musical starring LaChanze, Kingley Leggs, Felicia P. Fields, Brandon Victor Dixon, Elisabeth Withers Mendes and Renee Elise Goldsberry.
Earth, Wind & Fire songwriter Allee Willis, Brenda Russell and Stephen Bray crafted the unforgettable songs for the Gary Griffin-directed production, which American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino would also make her Broadway debut in before closing in 2008.
In 2015, John Doyle’s Tony Award-winning revival of The Color Purple opened on The Great White Way, marking the debuts of Cynthia Erivo, Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson, Orange Is the New Black star Danielle C. Brooks and newcomers Patrice Covington, Carla R. Stewart and Akron Watson.
Sanders, Winfrey, Spielberg and Jones have plans to bring the musical version to the big screen in the near future.
But until then, fans will relish in the experience of the original.
For the unforgettable movie’s revival on the big screen, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz will provide new commentary and insight into its production and legacy.