This script depicts the relationship between young Jacqueline Brown and her maternal aunt, Willie Cooper, in Harlem during the Depression-ridden 1930s. After Willie dies in 1942, Jacqueline accompanies her aunt’s body during the train trip home—to the family’s ancestral South. Willie Remembered is thus a coming-of-age story, or journey, about the emotional as well as intellectual education of a black girl in trying times.
Though the dominant presence in her life is Willie, Jacqueline Brown is surrounded by characters of various kinds in, and around, the transient New York hotel where her family lives: numbers players, furtive lovers, chorus girls, and barflies. Apart from Jacqueline’s ne’er-do-well father, her absent mother, and a paternal train conductor, the chief source of interest here lies in the tiny, hunchbacked, wizened, and wise Willie Cooper, a woman of abiding empathy, selfless dignity, and commanding self-respect.
A former film critic and film teacher, R. J. Cardullo was educated at the Yale Drama School, where he studied screenwriting with George Roy Hill.