Sounder Information

Sounder is a 1972 American DeLuxe Color drama film in Panavision directed by Martin Ritt, and starring Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, and Kevin Hooks. The film was adapted by Lonne Elder III from the 1970 Newbery Medal-winning novel Sounder by William H. Armstrong.


"Louisiana 1933" - The Morgans (Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, Kevin Hooks), a loving and strong family of black sharecroppers face a serious family crisis in the midst of the Great Depression. Father, Nathan Lee Morgan, tries to teach his son David Lee to be a man and survive in difficult times along with their dog, Sounder. But soon Nathan Lee gets a year of prison for stealing a ham to feed his starving family. Young David Lee goes to visit his father at prison camp, but happens upon a school. A kindly but firm teacher takes David Lee in and teaches him about important African-American figures in history. David Lee returns home, desperate to go to school. So much so that, when his father comes home, a maimed man, young David Lee must choose between Camille's offer to stay with her and go to school, or to stay at home with his father, Nathan.


Opening credits
  • with James Best
  • Eric Hooks
  • Yvonne Jarrel
  • Sylvia "Kuumba" Williams
  • and Janet MacLachlan

End credits
  • Cicely Tyson as Rebecca
  • Paul Winfield as Nathan Lee
  • Kevin Hooks as David Lee
  • Carmen Matthews as Mrs. Boatwright
  • Taj Mahal as Ike
  • James Best as Sheriff Young
  • Eric Hooks as Earl
  • Yvonne Jarrell as Josie Mae
  • Sylvia "Kuumba" Williams as Harriet
  • Ted Airhart as Mr. Perkins
  • Richard Durham as Perkins' Foreman
  • Wendell Brumfield as Deputy #1
  • Al Bankston as Deputy #2
  • Merle Sharkey as Teacher
  • Inez Durham as Court Clerk
  • Judge William Thomas Bennett as Judge
  • Reverend Thomas N. Phillips as Pastor
  • Carl Bruser as Wagon Driver
  • Jerry Leggio, Jr. as Guard #1
  • Pete Goff as Guard #2
  • Walker L. Chaney as Guard #3
  • Roy Idom as Guard #4
  • Randy Wilson as Convict #1
  • Isaac Greggs as Convict #2
  • Jackie Spears as Girl #1
  • Porter Mathews as Boy #1
  • Timothy Smith as Boy #2
  • Spencer Bradford as Clarence
  • Janet MacLachlan as Camille


While the book centers on the family"?s concern for the dog, screenwriter Lonne Elder III stated that he preferred to focus on the family"?s daily survival. He noted that he at first refused the assignment, but producer Robert B. Radnitz and director Martin Ritt convinced him to work with them, saying, "I wanted to keep Sounder accurate in its historical context, and not go off on any present-day fantasies."

A notable aspect of casting in the film is that the Minister is played by an actual minister and the Judge is played by an actual judge.

Critical reception

Sounder received warm reviews, and was praised as a welcome antidote to the contemporaneous wave of black films, most of which were considered low quality, low budget and exploitative. The film"?s depiction of a loving family was hailed as a banner accomplishment for black filmmakers and audiences. Film magazine Variety wrote that the picture had been "for good or ill, singled out to test whether the black audience will respond to serious films about the black experience rather than the 'super black' exploitation features."

Some of Sounder's success was due to its innovative marketing strategy. Fox focused on group sales in major cities and targeted religious organizations and schools. Radnitz personally visited thirty-five cities and held over 500 screenings, with sixty simultaneous sneak previews held in New York City. The religious establishment came out in favor of the film, with an endorsement by the Catholic Film Office and a study guide for religious educators created by the National Council of Churches. The Variety article noted that Fox also wrote a study guide, prepared by Dr. Roscoe Brown, Jr., director of Afro-American Affairs at New York University. Fox spent over $1 million on promoting the film, according to Variety.

Based on sixteen reviews, Sounder holds an 88% "Fresh" score (and an average of 7.7/10) on Rotten Tomatoes. In his Family Guide to Movies on Video, Henry Herx wrote: "[Sounder] captures the humanity of [its] characters and a fine, distanced sense of its sleepy Southern locale. The movie earns a deep emotional response from its audience because its [appealing] story and characters are believable. Not only a valid examination of the black experience in America, it is also a fine family experience." He added that the boy's search for his father "provides additional drama". Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four stars out of four, stating that "...This is a film for the family to see". Both Siskel and Ebert placed the film on their ten best list of 1972.

Box office

Despite popular skepticism that the film would not be a financial success, and the belief that "the black film market is exclusively an action and exploitation market", the picture was a major box-office hit. Made for less than $1 million, Sounder grossed just under $17 million, earning $9 million in US theatrical rentals in 1973. It was the 15th highest-grossing film of 1972.


A sequel, Part 2, Sounder, was released in 1976.

Academy Awards

  • Best Picture: Robert B. Radnitz
  • Best Actor: Paul Winfield
  • Best Actress: Cicely Tyson
  • Best Writing (Screenplay--based on material from another medium): Lonne Elder III.

Television version

In 2003, ABC's Wonderful World of Disney aired a new film adaptation, reuniting two actors from the original: Kevin Hooks (who played the son) directed, and Paul Winfield (who played the father) played the role of the teacher.


When Sounder was released in theaters, the film was produced and distributed by Twentieth Century Fox. Years later, when the film was released on VHS, Paramount Home Video assumed distribution rights. Sterling Entertainment currently has DVD distribution rights. Walt Disney Home Video has released the 2003 made-for-television film on DVD.

See also

  • List of American films of 1972

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sounder_%28film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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