I have seen "Pinky" many times over the years and have even shown it to my
film history students from time to time. It is one of a series of films
produced after WWII which is a irreplaceable window on the rapidly changing
morality of America in the wake of the horrors of the War.
Like it's counterparts, "Home of the Brave"; "Intruder in the Dust,
"Crossfire", "Lost Boundaries" and "Gentlemen's Agreement", among others, it
reflects American society's growing concern with bigotry. These films also
subtly affected public opinion in many ways easing the decisions and
legislation of the Civil Rights movement to come.
However, it's theme - a light-skinned southern Negro woman "passing for
white" in the North - is ludicrous to today's audiences. It's "glamorous"
look, unlike the other films cited above, detracts from it's credibility as
well despite it's many virtues as film-making.
Normally I chastize my students when they look at classic films with "1994
eyes". However, in the case of "Pinky" it is well-nigh impossible to overcome
it's self-congratulatry tone (which it suffered from even when it was new.)
It is true that black film-makers like Oscar Micheaux often dealt with
similar themes in his very uneven ouput, but the threadbare quality of his
productions softens the blow a little. I find it much more useful to show
"Intruder in the Dust" to my classes. Despite it's flaws, I feel it is a much
better film and certainly does the educational job better than "Pinky".