The award-winning novel Clara Callan, which I have adapted as a screenplay
CLARA CALLAN – screenplay by Rick Whelan - based on the novel by Richard Wright
A brief synopsis
In the midst of the Great Depression, two unmarried sisters struggle against convention to find their unpredictable lives engulfed with passion, violence and injustice as
they search for personal and emotional fulfilment.
Clara Callan peels back the surface of society to reveal the darkness and the demons lurking beneath - confronting issues that no one dared talk about at the time - abortion, rape, suicide, depression, lesbianism, religion and the repercussions for women who defied expectations and strayed outside convention.
Based on the acclaimed novel by Richard B. Wright, the story opens in 1934. With her mother long dead, her father recently deceased and her younger sister Nora off to New York in search of fame and fortune, Clara Callan, an unmarried schoolteacher, faces a lonely struggle to find her rightful place within the strict boundaries of small-town Whitfield, Ontario. During one of her long solitary walks, Clara is raped by two drifters. Pregnant, she turns for help to her sister Nora who is now enjoying a rising career as a radio soap opera star in New York City. A back-alley Harlem abortion is arranged by Nora’s lesbian friend Evelyn.
Back home, Clara has a lingering affair with a married man and becomes pregnant yet again. She ends the relationship but decides to keep the child. But this decision has repercussions. She loses her teaching job and is forced to find work in a nearby town where whispers of her “soiled reputation” have not spread.
Yet the birth of Clara’s daughter, Elizabeth, saves Clara’s life. With her new responsibility for another human being, she can no longer afford to obsess on her own life. In a very real sense, she is at last...free!