I recently watched 1974's Claudine with the incomparable James Earl Jones as a garbage man who falls in love with the lovely Diahann Carroll in a role (for which she was nominated the Academy Award) as a welfare mother with six children. She is quite stunning in the picture in a quiet and very real performance. The film is unique for its time period: an all-black cast in a non-blaxploitation flick. It deals with a lot of serious issues but in a comic manner (it was originally taglined as a comedy with "heart and soul").
Director John Berry, a friend of Orson Welles who, after being blacklisted, went into self-exile in France until the early 70s, handles the subject matter in a way that seems much more at ease than it could have been. Because of this, the tone struck many film critics as false. To me, with so few references to compare to, Berry portrays their situations in a way that is more respectful than I think it could have been. The characters are both witty and self-deprecating. And in particular, the character of Claudine's politically-engaged son Charles, is refreshingly real. It also seems to be a film borne out of a love for theatre: the multiple characters, the dialogue and settings. All of it gives a lot of room for his characters to act it out.
The romance between the two lead characters is both plausible and heartfelt as too are the conflicts that ensue among Claudine's eldest children. The film is enhanced by a marvelous score by Curtis Mayfield and a cluster of songs from Gladys Knight & the Pips. The film is a bit dated, repetitious and all-forgotten but still seems influential and an interesting watch for the time period it portrays. ***