Claudine (film)

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Original theatrical poster for Claudine.
Directed byJohn Berry
Produced byHannah Weinstein
Written byLester Pine
Tina Pine
StarringDiahann Carroll
James Earl Jones
Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs
David Kruger
Yvette Curtis
Socorro Stephens
Eric Jones
Adam Wade
Roxie Roker
Elisa Loti
Music byCurtis Mayfield
CinematographyGayne Rescher
Edited byLouis San Andres
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • April 22, 1974 (1974-04-22)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$6 million

Claudine is a 1974 American comedy-drama, romantic film, produced by Third World Films and distributed by 20th Century Fox. Starring James Earl Jones, Diahann Carroll, and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs.

Claudine was written by Lester Pine and Tina Pine, and directed by John Berry.[1] The film was released on April 22, 1974, grossing about $6 million.[2]


The film tells the story of Claudine Price (Diahann Carroll), a single Black Harlem mother, living on welfare with six children, who finds love with a garbage collector, Rupert "Roop" Marshall (James Earl Jones). The pair's relationship is complicated by their poverty, the restrictions of the welfare system and the hostility of her children, particularly eldest son Charles (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), who believes that Roop will leave their mother just like her previous husbands had. When Rupert is invited inside Claudine's shabby apartment, the children are rude and vulgar towards him.

Throughout the film, Miss Kabak, a social worker, visits Claudine at her home and asks her if she is employed and if she is dating anyone. Claudine always claims to be unemployed and single, to make sure to get the maximum amount of benefits, which she desperately needs. If Claudine has a job or dates anyone and receives gifts from her boyfriend, the social worker has to deduct any money or gifts from her benefits, forcing Claudine to lie. Having a husband would be even worse, and cause her to lose her benefits altogether. Claudine does have a job as a housekeeper, but her meager wages will not support the family without the welfare benefits. Adding to Claudine's stress and financial woes, her teenage daughter gets pregnant by a young man with no prospects for taking care of her or a baby.

Despite these problems, Claudine and Roop's relationship continues and the children warm up to him. Just before he is to announce his engagement to Claudine to the kids, Rupert is served papers for a court order relating to underpayment of child support of his own children; his work wages are garnished to pay the difference. Rupert is so upset that he disappears for a couple of days and loses contact with everyone. He moves out of his apartment, does not show up to work, and does not show up to the Father's Day celebration the children had prepared for him. Charles eventually finds Roop drunk at a bar and confronts him. Charles is angry at Rupert because he left his mother without any explanation and the two get into a scuffle at the bar. Later, Rupert shows up outside of Claudine's apartment, explains his absence and they reconcile.

After several hardships and debating the financial issues relating to welfare, the couple decide to marry. In the middle of the wedding, Charles runs inside the apartment with the police chasing after him for his activities at a political demonstration. The couple and the rest of the children run after Charles, leaving the ceremony, and board the police wagon. The film ends on a cheery note with the entire family, along with Rupert, walking happily hand in hand through the neighborhood.


Actor/Actress Role
Diahann Carroll Claudine Price
James Earl Jones Rupert "Roop" B. Marshall
Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs Charles Price (as Lawrence Hilton-Jacques)
Tamu Blackwell Charlene Price
David Kruger Paul Price
Yvette Curtis Patrice Price
Eric Jones Francis Price
Socorro Stephens Lurlene Price
Adam Wade Owen
Elisa Loti Miss Kabak
Roxie Roker Mrs. Winston


Welfare and Employment[edit]

In the film, Claudine receives financial aid from state welfare. Still, she receives barely enough money to provide basic necessities for herself and her six children, living in a slum-like neighborhood in Harlem. Claudine works as a housekeeper for an upper-middle class white woman but must conceal this so that her benefits will not be reduced. The constant struggle of a family living in poverty and unable to be honest about their circumstances is a major theme throughout the movie.

Welfare and Marriage[edit]

Claudine is forced to choose between the benefits her family desperately needs and her desire to form a new family with Roop. She is not a single mother by choice but because of the rules of the government's financial aid programs such as the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).[3]

Marrying a kind man who will bring love and stability to herself and her family will mean that her income will be reduced below what they need for bare survival. This is a major theme in the movie, which shows that, despite the stereotypes of a "Welfare Queen", this mother is neither lazy nor promiscuous, but trapped in a Catch-22 of the government's making.

Welfare and the African American community[edit]

The third theme that occurs in the film is welfare and the African American community as a whole. The welfare system, sometimes handled comically, sometimes seriously, is a constant topic of conversation in the movie. Even Claudine's younger children are aware of what welfare is and ask Rupert if he receives assistance. The one person, other than Rupert, who clearly opposes the welfare system is Charles, Claudine's oldest son. Charles is a member of an activist group promoting social justice for African Americans. Even though he understands that women like his mother face a nearly impossible struggle to break free from poverty and dependency, Charles opposes the welfare system because he believes it encourages passivity and discourages self-reliance. Charles believes in the creation of more job openings for African Americans so that they can have the opportunity to earn money and leave the welfare system.

Main characters[edit]


Claudine is played by Diahann Carroll. Claudine is a loving, thirty-six-year-old single mother of six children. She cannot raise her children without the help of the welfare program. Her children are Charles, Charlene, Paul, Patrice, Francis, and Lurlene. Claudine had been married and abandoned twice and dated two men before she meets Rupert. She lives in a small, run-down apartment in Harlem, New York. Claudine works as a housekeeper for a wealthy older Caucasian woman who does not seem to like Claudine very much and pays her very poorly. Claudine eventually dates Rupert and towards the end of the movie, they get married.


Rupert is played by James Earl Jones. Rupert is a cheery garbage collector who lives alone in his apartment. He meets Claudine when stops at the house where Claudine works to pick up the garbage. He has several children from two previous marriages. He never gets to see his children but he does provide them with as much financial support as his low-paying job allows. With time, he gains the respect and attention of Claudine's children and they finally decide to accept him into their family.


Charles is Claudine's oldest son and is played by Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs. Charles is a member of an African American activist group who fight for positive social change for the African American community. Charles disapproves of his mother's relationship with Rupert because he thinks that Rupert will get Claudine pregnant and simply leave her, as his own father and others have done. Charles does not even consider the younger children his siblings because he hates the fact that Claudine had several children with different men. Therefore, one day he confesses to his horrified mother that he has had a vasectomy because he does not want to procreate and be stuck in a situation similar to his mother's.


Tamu Blackwell plays Claudia's older daughter, Charlene. Claudine erupts with violence when she discovers her daughter is concealing her pregnancy, pounding on the girl with her fists. Claudine is crushed that Charlene has fallen into the same trap of early pregnancy that has diminished her own life. But her disappointment is soon replaced by compassion and determination to do what is best for her daughter.


Curtis Mayfield wrote and produced the film's score and soundtrack, the vocals for which are performed by Gladys Knight & the Pips. The soundtrack for Claudine was released on Buddah Records, the group's record label, and "On & On", the film's theme song, was a #5 hit for Knight and the Pips on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart in 1974.


The final shot of Claudine and her family walking together with Rupert was filmed several weeks after principal photography ended. Actor Ivan Dixon of Hogan's Heroes and Car Wash fame can be seen toward the end of the film in the crowd that follows Claudine as she hops into the police truck. He is wearing a red shirt. Dixon was a long time friend of Diahann Carroll and James Earl Jones.


Diahann Carroll was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress at the 47th Academy Awards.[4] The movie was nominated for the Writers Guild of America award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen.

The role of Claudine was originally given to Diana Sands, but she was stricken with cancer. Just before her death, Sands called Carroll and insisted that she take the role in her place.

The location of this film was on Edgecombe Avenue and 140th street in Harlem in an area called Sugarhill.

During the first season of the television series Good Times, the Evans children suggest their parents go see this film.


The film earned rentals of $3 million in North America.[5]


Diahann Carroll was nominated for Best Actress at the 47th Academy Awards in 1975.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Claudine". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
  2. ^ The Numbers: Box Office Data, Movie Stars, Idle Speculation [1] online retrieved February 16, 2010
  3. ^ Blank, Susan W.; Barbara B. Blum. "A Brief History of Work Expectations for Welfare Mothers" (PDF). 1. 7 (Spring 1997). Retrieved 3/3/11. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ "Diahann Carroll Official Website". Retrieved 3/11/11. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p232. Please note figures are rentals accruing to distributors and not total gross.
  6. ^ "1975 Oscars at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion". Retrieved July 30, 2016.

External links[edit]