Segments in this Video

James Baldwin's Funeral (02:54)


We see excerpts of Baldwin interviews, in one, he addresses his homosexuality. Included in this introduction is footage of his funeral on December 8, 1987. (Credits)

Maya Angelou on James Baldwin (01:24)

Maya Angelou speaks at James Baldwin's funeral. Friends since the late '50s, Angelou references the timing of their friendship in the context of the civil rights movement. A tearful Angelou says we are supposed to refrain from asking "Will you be my brother."

Amiri Baraka on James Baldwin (00:60)

Writer/activist Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) speaks at James Baldwin's funeral. "Jimmy was God's black revolutionary mouth."

Harlem Childhood (01:42)

Archival footage of 1920s Harlem. Baldwin describes his rigid and religious father and early childhood. His father "had trouble keeping us alive." The oldest of 9, James was "in charge of the kids."

Reading from James Baldwin from "Early Essays" (01:28)

Watch archival footage of Harlem as Baldwin reads from his "Early Essays." Baldwin went to the library 3 or 4 times a week. He sought to make a connection between books he read and the life he saw and lived. He knew that education was "how I was going to get my revenge."

P.S. 24: Baldwin's School Song (01:05)

Brother David Baldwin says James wrote his first play when they were very young; he also wrote the school song for P.S. 24, a song that was used throughout the school's history.

Young Writer's Perspective (01:54)

We see an excerpt from an interview with James Baldwin's mother. Baldwin explains he was afraid of his father, whose plan for Baldwin was that he become a preacher.

Baldwin Realizes He Knows "Nothing" (02:52)

Baldwin spent 3 years preaching." He says in order to leave the pulpit, he had to leave home. He did both on the same day. He became a book reviewer--most of which were about being nice to Jews and Negros--until he could take no more.

Restaurant Incident (00:54)

Baldwin tells the story of entering a whites only restaurant and waiting to be served. When he was refused, for the first time he "wanted to hurt somebody." He threw a glass at the mirror behind the bar. After this, he determines to leave the country.

1948: Baldwin in Paris (02:31)

Watch archival footage of 1940s Paris as Baldwin explains he was able to "operate in Paris without being menaced socially." Painter Lucien Happerberger and dancer Bernard Hassel recall the poverty, and happiness, of life with Baldwin in Paris.

"Everybody's Protest Novel" (01:18)

Baldwin says he wrote this to find out what he could really do. Writer/activist Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) discusses "Note to a Native Son." Baldwin's biographer says in France, Baldwin discovered his own (American) identity. He says you "better" take your home with you, otherwise, you're homeless.

France's "Niggers" (01:32)

Maya Angelou explains that France was in fact deeply prejudiced against Algerians; it "simply didn't have any guilt vis-à-vis black Americans," She reads Baldwin's words on the Algerian issue in an excerpt from Baldwin's "No Name in the Street."

Baldwin in Switzerland (02:55)

Painter Lucien Happerberger describes life with Baldwin in Loeche-les-Bains. Baldwin wrote an essay for Harper's, "Stranger in the Village," about this experience, and finished "Go Tell it on the Mountain" here.

"Go Tell it on the Mountain" Published (01:37)

Then publicity director for Knopf publishing, William Cole describes how he discovered Baldwin's work and realized its importance.

Analysis: "Go Tell it on the Mountain" (02:26)

Writer Ishmael Reed reads from "Go Tell it on the Mountain." Baldwin explains that the Baptist Church "assumed that the saved were black and all the doomed where white." This fantasy revenge was a way of "getting them from one day to another," says Baldwin.

"Go Tell it on the Mountain" (01:15)

William Cole says sales were modest and reviews "disappointing," Maya Angelou says Baldwin's works are part of the continuous narrative of Black Americans begun by Frederick Douglass and including George Moses Horton and others.

"Giovanni's Room" (03:36)

Baldwin wrote Cole in 1964 of a "departure" he was working on. Cole was away on vacation, and Baldwin's homosexual love story was rejected by editors at Knopf who were "scared." Baldwin discusses the novel and his homosexuality in the context of public life.

Baldwin Returns to the U.S. (01:31)

Brother David Baldwin discusses Baldwin's return to the U.S. and says they become closer.

"Another Country" (02:03)

See Baldwin on the cover of "Esquire" amid New York's literary elite. Baldwin stayed in William Styron's guest house, writing about intimate relationships between blacks and whites. David Baldwin recalls discussing the novel's characters with his brother as the novel progressed.

Americans in Istanbul (03:13)

Actor/producer Engin Cezzar recalls Baldwin's response to the "ancient" atmosphere of Istanbul. Cezzar speculates that the old city reminded him of his childhood in Harlem. Baldwin biographer David Leeming recalls meeting Baldwin for the first time.

Excerpt and Analysis: "Another Country" (01:32)

Maya Angelou reads a passage from the novel. A white character describes an encounter with a black family after a death. She says the book is about blacks and whites trying to connect, "trying desperately to love each other." Baldwin says the novel is "about the price of love," too.

Success of "Another Country" (01:11)

His most successful book to date, "Another Country" was on the NY Times best seller list and translated into a dozen languages. Writer and friend Yashar Kemal discusses the book and compares Baldwin's philosophy to that of Dostoevsky.

Istanbul: A Place to (Party) Rest and Work (01:52)

Baldwin biographer David Leeming say Baldwin's lifestyle--that would seem antithetical to a writer's needs--was necessary for him. Of Muslim culture, Baldwin explains, "Once you find another civilization, you're forced to examine your own."

Baldwin Eloquent Civil Rights Speaker (03:18)

Baldwin returned home to take part in the Civil Rights Movement. Baldwin was one of the first to articulate what blacks were feeling and were going to do. Sidney Poitier smiles from the audience, as Baldwin describes belonging to a country which has no place for you.

"The Fire Next Time" (01:54)

Writer William Styron introduces Baldwin's polemical essay that told white Americans what it was like to be black. Maya Angelou reads the passage that explains the title against archival footage of Civil Rights movement events.

Baldwin's "Live Grenade" (02:33)

William Styron calls "The Fire Next Time" one of the great documents of the 20th century. Baldwin challenged well-intentioned liberals. Hear his "brilliant soliloquy, from the Dick Cavett show, about the reality of race relations in the 1960s (NY Times: August 14, 1989)

Race Relations in Art (03:31)

James Baldwin stands with Marlon Brando as Martin Luther King speaks in Washington D.C. See an excerpt and hear Baldwin's comments on the politics of his play, "Blues for Mister Charlie."

Analysis "Blues for Mister Charlie" (02:00)

We hear black Americans discuss the play's message and impact and see an excerpt in which actor Al Freeman Jr. expresses the hatred he feels toward whites.

"All White Men Are Mister Charlie" (02:51)

Further analysis includes an excerpt from the play in which the character Juanita pleads, "I hope I'm pregnant. I hope I am! One more illegitimate black baby -- that's right, you jive mothers!"

Baldwin Becomes a Pariah (02:23)

We see archival footage of Malcolm X speaking, followed by footage of his funeral. Criticism of Baldwin emerges through Eldridge Cleaver's "Soul on Ice." Cleaver accuses Baldwin of hating his blackness. Baldwin comments on TV that there are days "when you wonder what your role is."

Baldwin Reacts to Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. (02:58)

William Styron says Baldwin was split by a desire for love and communion and an understanding that the system wouldn't allow it. Baldwin says "all men are brothers" and "the world is held together by the love and passion of a very few people."

Baldwin's Return to France (03:09)

Badwin's personal assistant, Bernard Hassel, describes him as having moments of depression when he returned from the U.S. He spent restorative months in the commune St. Paul de Vence while his health was failing.

"If Beale St. Could Talk" (03:06)

Because Baldwin was a public person in the U.S., he found it hard to write. "If Beale St. Could Talk" was a bitter work, in part because he had been disillusioned by events of the 1960s, especially the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. Maya Angelou reads an excerpt.

Baldwin Out of Vogue (02:24)

Later in Baldwin's career critics said things like "Far too much sermonizing...a lackluster account." - New York Times; "Increasing bile and cynicism...a forced harangue against the West." - Village Voice. He spent his later years teaching and writing.

James Baldwin as an Example (02:32)

Baldwin felt "black people need witnesses in this hostile world where everything is white." People who are interested in black liberation, human progress, and writing owe him a great debt for leading the charge.

James Baldwin's Final Work (02:08)

Baldwin kept working after he was diagnosed with cancer. He did not want to "skate on his reputation." He abandoned his last novel in order to finish the play "The Welcome Table." Hear a letter written by Baldwin on July 4, 1987.

James Baldwin's Death (02:32)

Baldwin did not discuss his death even as it was imminent. He spent his final days with friends at home in the South of France.

Baldwin the Prophet (02:54)

Thousands mourn at James Baldwin's funeral. All who came in contact with Baldwin were changed by the encounter.

Credits: James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket (02:05)

Credits: James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket

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James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket

3-Year Streaming Price: $199.95



James Baldwin was at once a major 20th-century American author, a civil rights activist, and a prophetic voice calling Americans, black and white both, to confront their shared racial tragedy. This film biography of Baldwin’s life captures the passion of his beliefs with stirring excerpts from his novels and striking archival footage dating from the Harlem Renaissance through to the author’s commentary on civil rights to his writing retreats in Istanbul and Europe. Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Ishmael Reed, and William Styron provide insight as the program skillfully links excerpts from Baldwin’s major works to different historical stages in black-white dialogue. (87 minutes)

Length: 87 minutes

Item#: BVL49726

Copyright date: ©1990

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“Succeeds remarkably in getting into the mind and spirit of the most celebrated Black writer of our time.”  The New York Times 


“A brilliant film which magnificently evokes Baldwin’s spirit.”  —Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University


“A haunting, beautifully made biography.”  Los Angeles Times


“A splendid film...”  Variety  


“Engrossing. Will make you want to race to the library.”  The Philadelphia Inquirer   

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