For Love of Ivy
Sidney Poitier is my mother’s boyfriend. They’ve never met, but my family is clear that she would leave my father in a flash if Sidney ever came knocking. It is for this reason that I had seen every Sidney Poitier film made before I was old enough to get into a PG-13-movie. One of my favorites remains For Love of Ivy—a bit of late-‘60s fluff about a suburban family that sets out to find a boyfriend for their black maid so that she will abandon her plans to leave them and go to school in New York City. It stars Carroll O’Connor at his irascible best, a young Beau Bridges, a radiant Abbey Lincoln and, of course, my would-be stepdaddy. The silly premise aside, For Love of Ivy addresses themes of class and privilege. And I love to watch the relationship unfold between the worldly businessman/hustler that Poitier plays and Lincoln’s shy, sheltered maid.
Based on an original story by Poitier, For Love of Ivy also features the ultimate 60s movie stamps of hipness—a bohemian party scene and a musical score by Quincy Jones. Watching the film again with industry-seasoned eyes, I was struck by the presence of two black leads in a mainstream romantic comedy, supported by a white cast—an anomaly in 1968 and an (apparent) impossibility in 2011. I also noted how the African-American characters triumphed over the manipulations of their social superiors.
Messages aside, For Love of Ivy is more Doris Day and Rock Hudson than Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner—the virginal innocent wins the heart of the handsome playboy—and is ultimately about one woman’s quest to define herself.
Daralyn Jay is a multi-talented writer artist working in live performance, theater, independent film, recordings, commercials and voiceover.