Story of a Three-Day Pass, The (1967)

Story of a Three-Day Pass, The (1967)

“I’m a person! I’m a person!”

When a Black U.S. soldier (Harry Baird) stationed in France has a romance with a White French woman (Nicole Berger) while on a three-day pass, he wonders: how will those around them — including his superior (Hal Brav) — respond to their inter-racial relationship?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • African-Americans
  • Cross-Cultural Romance
  • Melvin Van Peebles Films
  • Racism and Race Relations

American-born Melvin Van Peebles’ feature debut was this adaptation of his own French-language novel La Permission, shot over six weeks in France and brought to the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1967. It tells a straightforward yet emotionally complex tale of racism and cross-racial romance at a time when the United States was about to pass Loving v. Virginia, a landmark civil rights decision ruling laws banning inter-racial marriages as unconstitutional. Baird’s “Turner” simply wants to have a good time during his leave, and is happy to meet sweet Berger:

… who explains to him that she’s perceived as “fragile” at work and is thus able to take days off as needed. She’s game for spending the weekend with him, and the couple gradually come to care more deeply for one another.

Van Peebles doesn’t shy away from addressing impacts of their race — as during brief fantasy sequences in their hotel room when they imagine what each other is offering them:

… by Baird’s anger at being referred to as “SeƱor Negrito” by a Spanish singer in a cafe:

… and the response of Baird’s fellow soldiers when he’s “caught” with Berger at the beach.

(There goes his promotion. As Baird explains to Berger, a “good Negro” according to his captain is “a Negro you can trust… to be obedient, cheerful and frightened… too frightened to go out with a white girl.”) This film paved the way for Van Peebles to come to Hollywood and make Watermelon Man (1970), which would end up his only studio picture before he turned to making the independent Blaxploitation classic Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971), both of which I’ll review shortly on this site.

Note: Sadly, Berger died in a car crash after making this film, thus ending her short career.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Michael Kelber’s cinematography
  • Good use of location shooting in and around Paris

Must See?
Yes, for its historical relevance within ’60s cinema, and as Van Peebles’ debut film.


  • Historically Relevant


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