Shadows (1958)

Shadows (1958)

“The point is, if you’re yourself, you won’t get hurt.”

In New York City, a white man (Anthony Ray) is distressed to learn that his light-skinned new girlfriend (Lelia Goldoni) has black brothers (Hugh Hurd and Ben Carruthers).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Cross-Cultural Romance
  • John Cassavetes Films
  • Musicians
  • New York City
  • Race Relations and Racism

John Cassavetes made his directorial debut with this semi-improvised, Beatnik-era story of inter-racial romance in New York City. He released his first draft of the film in 1957, then withdrew it to add a bit more structure to the storyline, resulting in a more coherent but still intentionally non-linear, jazz-inspired tale. While it’s most definitely an indie film, it’s remarkable on numerous levels — primarily its frank treatment of racial tensions in a non-sensationalized fashion:

… and also its willingness to show first-time love (sex) as “awful”. Perhaps most refreshing is how the storyline doesn’t jump directly to racial prejudice as the driving tension, instead showing Goldoni’s reluctance to bring Ray in to her home simply because she’s not sure she wants to continue their relationship; his reaction upon learning she’s a light-skinned African-American simply seals the pain.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Erich Kollmar’s cinematography
  • Excellent location shooting throughout New York

Must See?
Yes. Listed as a film with Historical Relevance, a Cult Movie, and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


  • Historically Relevant
  • Important Director

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Shadows (1958)

  1. Must-see, for its significance in cinema history.

    Certainly a flawed film – mainly in the sense that, production-wise, it looks like a labor of love (i.e., low-budget but made with enthusiasm).

    What has the most impact is Goldoni’s performance – in particular, a shift in her character when she first realizes that Ray will reject her. Goldoni’s character is basically a nice girl so it’s *weird* seeing her post-rejection, almost punishing a subsequent suitor for being black!

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