If I were to think back to all of the classic films I’ve seen, and all of the clips that’ve inspired me, I’d have trouble coming up with a favorite. But if I had to name one scene that emotionally impacted me the most I’d have to say it was the cafe scene from Anna Lucasta (United Artists, 1958).
Background of Story and Film
Directed by Arnold Laven and written by Philip Yordan, who also wrote the story for the stage, it has an all-black cast starring Eartha Kitt as Anna Lucasta, Sammy Davis, Jr. as Danny Johnson and other notable actors. The plot centers around Anna, a wharf prostitute, who was thrown out of her childhood home by her father who didn’t approve of her boyfriend. She ends up in San Diego, California, where she’s forced to resort to prostitution after a thief steals all of her money.
Anna Lucasta Film Clip
Shot-by-Shot: The Cafe Scene
In the cafe scene, there are a variety of emotions that feel very intense due to the intimate setting of the wharf location. It includes Anna, Danny, a sailor, Danny’s friend, Lester, and the cafe owner.
Starting with a medium shot that establishes the location and Anna’s glee over seeing Danny’s arrival following the ensuing medium wide shots of Danny and Anna reuniting, her meeting Lester and standing either at the bar or sitting at a table, help show her professional facade as a working girl. In these shots, she’s either seems world-weary, sarcastic, overly joyful or flirtations, which contrasts effectively with the extreme close-ups that display her inner vulnerability.
When Danny places a necklace he’s brought her around her neck, while they’re at the bar,a close-up of her face registers a brief look of surprise then a medium shot shows her transforming back into her previous persona by openly flirting with Lester. One of the most gripping parts, of this scene, is when Danny “proposes” to Anna and the close-up features a longer connection to her softer side that reveals she is emotionally touched by his offer.
A Romantic Dance and a Poignant Reunion
Soon after, when she and Danny dance together, a pan shot is used to catch their graceful movements and a true sense of delight is captured through Anna’s laughter and body language. A medium shot is then utilized to catch Danny dipping Anna dramatically. This shot demonstrates how much fun they’re having dancing together and sets up the final portion of the scene when they stop, return to the bar, and Anna sees her father looking at her through the cafe window. An extreme close-up is used to catch Anna’s shock and sadness.
What really captured my heart, in this clip, was how much of an actress Anna had to be in order to live the life she chose and how much she had to give up to do it. Ultimately she still wants love and a happy ending, but from this scene, it’s questionable whether or not she’ll ever have one. I feel the director and editor did an excellent job of bringing out the strength of the writing and acting with the types of shots they chose and when they decided to use them. As a viewer, seeing it for the first time, this approach helped the film remain memorable and unforgettable.