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With a budget of $490 thousand and a shooting schedule of 17 days, Bright Road was an MGM project that showcased the talents of Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte before they became stars.
“In its own modest way, Bright Road would break a color barrier. The story didn't explore racial issues; it just told a human story with character who happened to be black,” Belafonte wrote in his autobiography.
1. It was based on a true story.
Mary Elizabeth Vroman wrote See How They Run, which became Bright Road, based on her own experiences as a teacher. The story took 24 hours to finish, and she submitted it to The Ladies Home Journal, who published the piece in 1951. Vroman said, “It was a story I had to write. I merely thought – if people could know these children as I do, they would be certain to love them all. Love solves more problems than anger.”
2. It was Belafonte’s debut.
Harry Belafonte made his screen debut in Bright Road. “For me, at age twenty-five, Bright Road was just a fun first stab at acting in films,” he said. Belafonte began his career as a singer, using the money he earned for acting classes. The same year as Bright Road’s release, he also signed a contract with RCA Victor to record music.
3. Belafonte and Dandridge became friends.
The pair met prior to filming, but grew close on set. “No one could mistake the chemistry between us,” Belafonte said. “Dorothy and I felt a strong mutual attraction, no question about that. But during rehearsals, it became clear that no matter what our feelings might be, a romance between us wasn't going to happen.” They worked on three feature films together, including the acclaimed Carmen Jones.
4. Communism was the enemy.
At the time, affiliation to the Communist Party, past or present, meant that actors could be denied work from studios who were adamant to prove their loyalty to America, as well as avoid the public hotspot. Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte, like many others, felt the pressure to sign a loyalty oath drafted by the Screen Actors Guild. Belafonte said, “I'd been asked to sign one before filming Bright Road, attesting that I was not, nor... ever had been, a member of the Communist party,” Belafonte said. Instead, they each chose to address any rumors of unpatriotic behavior with a letter. Dandridge wrote, “I would like to close by saying that I am not now or ever have been a member of the Communist Party… My sole interests are towards having a successful career and aiding my people.”