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King of the Bingo Game

Bingo Themed Game Shows

Ralph Ellison is an African-American writer who attained artistic heights that few authors have, compared to Herman Melville and Willam Faulkner. His most famous work is Invisible Man - no, not the sci-fi notion of a person who has achieved invisibility, so that he can not be seen by others. Instead, it details the plight of the black male in the 1940s who is, for all practical purpose,s invisible to the society around him, solely because of the color of his skin.

Another Ellison classic is King of the Bingo Game. Set in Harlem in 1943, it’s the story of Sonny, a struggling African-America who turns to his local Bingo contest to earn money. Struggle is the key word here. Lacking modern avenues of gambling, say Las Vegas or modern online sites, Sonny takes the route of a desperate man to provide for his family. A gamble he hopes will turn his fortunes around.

Set in the depression era, King of the Bingo Game was made into a motion picture in 1999, based on Ellison’s acclaimed short story of the same name.

Starring Colman Domingo as Sonny, this adaptation received high praise and was available on VHS from PBS Pictures and originally featured on PBS' American Storytellers series. Not sure if it was released on DVD or not.

It’s a 30 minute film described as “a multi-layered and intense performance as Sonny, a man whose search for the good life culminates in one ultimate and onerous contest. Writer/Director/Producer Elise Robertson skillfully weaves this world for us so well, that it is easy to believe that we are actually eavesdropping in this man's life.”

Can one game turn a person’s life around? That’s the premise of the tale, and indeed one roll of the dice or, in this case, a lucky Bingo card, can indeed be a life changing moment. As for Sonny, well, no spoilers here. Catch King of the Bingo Game when it turns up again on PBS and find out for yourself!

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