They are not called Loving for nothing. Loving is simply their name. You could not find a true tale more tailor-made for Valentine's Day than the story that ended laws against interracial marriage in America in the mid-'60s. A documentary featuring archival footage and period photography, The Loving Story airs Feb. 14 on HBO. The line you will remember is, "Tell the judge, I love my wife, and I will not leave her."
Married in 1958 in Washington, D.C., Richard (white) and Mildred (African American and Native American) Loving travelled to the capitol, as interracial marriage was against the law in their home state. Returning to Virginia to live their lives, they were awakened by the sheriff mid-sleep and arrested. Legally wed, they were not allowed to live together as man and wife. Bringing their case to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Lovings became the center of a landmark United States Supreme Court decision.
Last week at a special screening at HBO, producer Nancy Buirski introduced the film to a crowd that included her co-producer, Elisabeth Haviland James, and Hope Ryden, who with Abbot Mills shot the 16-millimeter footage covering the case in the mid-'60s; also attending were constitutional rights attorney Philip Hirschkop, who with Bernard Cohen brought the case to the Supreme Court; and Loving family members, including daughter Peggy, who is seen as a little girl assembling board puzzles with her father. Cocktails at the International Center for Photography, where Grey Villet's intimate photos of the Lovings are exhibited, preceded the screening. Villet shot this couple up close and personal: Richard may look like a redneck at first, but he is a strong, silent type, an impression captured in his adoring gaze at his fine-boned, tall, and elegant wife.
The laws overturned in this film look remarkably antiquated, as the debate over marriage as a fundamental right continues for same-sex couples.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.