Carbon Copy (film)

Carbon Copy is a 1981 British-American comedy-drama film directed by Michael Schultz, produced by RKO Pictures and Hemdale Film Corporation, and released by Avco Embassy Pictures on 25 September 1981. The film stars George Segal, Susan Saint James, and Jack Warden, and features Denzel Washington in his feature-film debut. It was the first feature film produced by RKO Pictures after a break of many years.

Carbon Copy
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Schultz
Produced byStanley Shapiro
Carter DeHaven
Written byStanley Shapiro
StarringGeorge Segal
Denzel Washington
Susan Saint James
Jack Warden
Music byBill Conti
CinematographyFred J. Koenekamp
Distributed byAvco Embassy Pictures
Release date
  • 25 September 1981 (1981-09-25)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
Box office$9 million[1]


Roger Porter (Washington), a young and somewhat naive black man, is the long-lost son of Walter Whitney (Segal), a successful businessman living in the exclusive, predominantly white community of San Marino, California. Walter, who is Jewish, lives a frustrating life in his gated community as he constantly has to beg his shrewish wife for sex, plus he has to put up with his obnoxious step-daughter's antics. Roger turns up at Walter's office, revealing that he is the result of Walter's long-ago relationship with a black woman, who is now dead. For purposes of professional advancement in the business, Walter had left Roger's mother. The only person who knew about Roger's mother was his anti-Semitic father-in-law (Warden), who is also his boss. Walter's father-in-law had warned him that if he continued his relationship with Roger's mother he would see to it that Walter would never prosper in his career, so Walter forcefully broke it off.

Walter attempts to make it up to Roger by telling Walter's wife Vivian (Saint James) that he wants to adopt Roger. She accepts, but soon regrets the decision after she finds out about Roger's real relationship with Walter. She kicks Walter out. Her father then fires him, taking his car and everything he owns in the process. Walter's friends alienate him. He comes to the realization that his former associates will no longer help him, leaving him penniless. Walter realizes he is going through "social menopause". Per his accountant, the only one to give him a hand, "They don't want you to participate as a white man, so they are going to make you watch like a black man." Roger checks into a motel and tries to make ends meet. Meanwhile, Walter's father-in-law watches Walter's every move to make sure Walter receives no help from the world he knew so that Walter will return to his old world WITHOUT Roger. Later, Walter and Roger move into an apartment. Walter ends up as a menial manual laborer, shoveling horse manure. Still, Walter is resolute in staying next to Roger.

Later Walter's wife Vivian and his father in law return, telling Walter they miss him. He then has to choose between either acceptance that Roger is his son, or alienation of Roger to salvage his own position in society. He chooses the latter, but his conscience bothers him to the extreme where he then decides to sacrifice everything again to return to Roger, dismissing his father-in-law's threats that this time he will make Walter really suffer.

After meeting Roger again, Walter's accountant reveals that Roger is going to Walter's old alma mater to make it bigger in life. Walter, proud of his son, rides along Roger's jalopy, deciding to finally give him the time they never had before.

Main cast


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