Released in 1968, For Love of Ivy marked the first time in mainstream film that African Americans were shown in a mature, romantic relationship. The late sixties ushered in a whole new generation of filmmakers anxious to break new barriers. However, in the case of For the Love of Ivy, it was the presence of Sidney Poitier (who also received the only writing credit of his career for writing the story), that made it possible for the film to get made.
Aside from the presence of its African-Americans leads, For Love of Ivy is a standard romantic comedy, and Poitier’s charisma makes the film as watchable as it is. Ivy (Abbey Lincoln) has worked for the Austin family– which includes dad Frank (Carroll O’Connor, All in the Family), mom Doris (Nan Martin), daughter Gina (Lauri Peters) and son Tim (Beau Bridges, The Mountain Between Us)–for nearly a decade. Now she wants to quit; eager to move into the city, get an education, and perhaps find a husband. To prevent Ivy from leaving, the kids set out to try and find Ivy a man. Enter Jack Parks (Poitier), a well-to-do business associate of their fathers who runs a respectable trucking business by day, and an illegal gambling operation by night. Initially, Jack has no interest in taking Ivy out. Desperate, Tim blackmails the older man, and the date is set.
While Poitier has charisma to spare, and Abbey Lincoln is beautiful, For Love of Ivy never quite becomes the touching romance those involved were likely hoping for. The plot is to thin, and there’s not a lot for the characters to do. Since its obvious from the moment Jack enters the scene that he and Ivy will end up together, other subplots (such as they are), must help keep things moving. Aside from various scenes in Jack’s mobile casino’s (he had specially designed trucks), much of the film deals with Ivy, and her life in the Austin home. For Gina and Tim, she has become a confidante; like a second mother. Doris has come to rely on Ivy to take care of the house, and prepare all the meals. None of them can imagine life without her.
A singer by trade, and with just a few parts to her credit, Lincoln reportedly beat out over 300 other women for the role of Ivy. While she certainly has some delightful moments, her movements are occasionally overly theatrical, and her line readings a bit too canned sounding. Not surprisingly these issues are most apparent during her scenes with Poitier who gives a rather subtle performance. Poitier had done such heavy lifting in recent films like In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? That it must have been nice to do something lighter. While For Love of Ivy can’t be considered one of his best films, it still serves as a rather effective snapshot of upper middle class life in 1968. Check out Beau Bridges’ hippie wardrobe, look out for a young Jennifer O’Neill (Summer of ’42) making her film debut, and if you’re a Sidney Poitier fan like me, the arrival of one of this films on Blu-ray is cause for celebration.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Kino Lorber’s 1080p transfer is a pleasant one, highlighting a nice degree of detail, and a strong color palette throughout. The DTS MA mono sound provides clean, and clear dialogue throughout. Optional English SDH subtitles are available, and some trailers round out the package.
Movie title: For Love of Ivy (1968)
Director(s): Daniel Mann
Actor(s): Sidney Poitier , Abbey Lincoln , Beau Bridges , Nan Martin , Lauri Peters , Carroll O'Connor
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance