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I Passed for White

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I Passed for White (1960) starring James Franciscus, Sonya Wilde
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I Passed for White (1960) starring James Franciscus, Sonya Wilde

In I Passed for White, a middle class girl, who looks white but is “secretly” black, marries a wealthy white man. This leads to conflict, as she tries to hide her past from his racist family.

Review of I Passed for White

After watching I Passed for White, it’s frankly not the heroine’s mixed racial background that causes all of the trouble. It’s how she keeps it a secret from the man she loves. She never lets anyone meet her family, or even talk about them. The husband grows very suspicious, which is only natural.

Although the husband is a “nice guy”, he’s more than a little racist himself. At a nightclub, his wife starts talking to a black musician. He immediately assumes the worst, and punches the black man for daring to talk to his wife! Unknown to him, that musician is actually his brother-in-law. But he has no way of knowing that.


The acting is good, but not great. The largest problem is the script. The underlying story — half-black/half-white woman who doesn’t fee that she belongs anywhere — is actually good. But here, it’s heavy-handed.

There’s lots of angst and emotion, and things turn out badly for all involved. It’s frankly a depressing movie. I much prefer Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner for a better approach to the same concept.

Cast of characters

  • Sonya Wilde … Bernice Lee / Lila Brownell
  • James Franciscus (Marooned 1969, Beneath the Planet of the Apes) … Rick Leyton
  • Patricia Michon … Sally Roberts
  • Elizabeth Council … Ann Leyton
  • Griffin Crafts … Mr. Leyton
  • Isabel Cooley … Bertha
  • Jimmy Lydon (Life with Father) … Jay Morgan
  • Thomas Browne Henry (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Blood of Dracula) … Dr. Merritt
  • Max Mellinger … Mr. Gordon
  • Phyllis Cole … Nurse
  • Calvin Jackson … Eddie – in Dance School
  • Lon Ballantyne … Chuck
  • Temple Hatton … Eddie – Friend of Bernice
  • Freita Shaw … Gram
  • Edmund Hashim … Club Patron
  • Ray Kellogg (The Red Skelton Hour) … Bartender

Editorial review of I Passed for White courtesy of

A young girl (Sonya Wilde), meets and marries the man of her dreams (James Franciscus). However, she hasn’t told him that she is half-black, and he and his rich family and friends are white. All kinds of complications arise as this takes place back in 1960!

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