In 1961, a film version of A Raisin in the Sun was released featuring its original Broadway cast of Sidney Poitier , Ruby Dee , Claudia McNeil , Diana Sands , Ivan Dixon , Louis Gossett, Jr. and John Fiedler . Hansberry wrote the screenplay, and the film was directed by Daniel Petrie . It was released by Columbia Pictures and Ruby Dee won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress. Both Poitier and McNeil were nominated for Golden Globe Awards , and Petrie received a special "Gary Cooper Award" at the Cannes Film Festival .
Despite the championing of the play by James Baldwin and other prominent writers, criticism of A Raisin in the Sun ranged from those who found it too radical to those who called it conservative. Nelson Algren disparaged it as “a good drama about real estate.” Poet and playwright Amiri Baraka originally described the play’s subject as “middle class—buying a house and moving into white folks neighborhoods.” But he later said that its themes “are actually reflective of the essence of black people’s striving and the will to defeat segregation, discrimination and national oppression.”
The Younger family - Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, younger sister Beneatha, son Travis and mother Lena - live in a small apartment in Chicago's East side. They are anticipating a life insurance check for Lena's husband's death in the amount of $10,000, and each of them has an idea as to what he or she would like to do with this money. Matriarch Lena wants to buy a house to fulfill the dream she shared with her deceased husband. Walter Lee would rather use the money to invest in a liquor store, believing the income would put an end to the family’s financial woes. Ruth, wanting to provide more space and better opportunities for Travis, agrees with Lena. Beneatha would like to use the money to pay her medical school tuition .