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AFRICAN AMERICAN musicals


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I did a search in this forum and did not see this subject addressed. I have to admit I have not seen these films...so I am wondering how they hold up and if they are worth checking out:

 

- CABIN IN THE SKY

 

- STORMY WEATHER

 

- CARMEN

 

- PORGY AND BESS

 

- THE WIZ (This one I saw on television long ago.)

 

Are there any other significant AA musicals I have neglected to mention?

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You enter this area like a mine field with all the sterotypes etc. But I would advise you to check out Minnelli's *Cabin in the Sky*--it's probably the best of that sort of thing.

 

*Carmen* is an interesting concept.

 

And of course, *Porgy & Bess* is an Opera--not to be taken all that seriously. But it's top-heavy with stero-types. However, the music is divine.

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Please do not assume about me or any other poster.

 

I am not interested in stereotypes...I am interested in talent. I was looking at Diahann Carroll's filmography and that is what prompted this thread...She's in both CARMEN and PORGY & BESS, plus other films like PARIS BLUES. I want to know if the production values hold up and if they're worth renting on Netflix.

 

Identifying a musical as an AA musical, or a film that has salsa dancing as a Latin-themed musical is not stereotypical or narrow-minded...it's a celebration of culture as well as individual talents. I think most people can understand that...and I hope you do. Thanks.

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I didn't assume anything about you--I'm telling you about the material and warning you about the sterotypes. There are some people who are greatly offended and upset when they encounter them.

Of course, the actors, actresses --performers involved in these films were great talents. But they all had to adhere to the tempo of the time.

 

Edited by: cujas on Jul 1, 2010 2:55 PM

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I agree that the films were products of their times. Stereotypes abound in the Hal Roach OUR GANG comedies, too (with the Buckwheat character)...so it is not limited to musicals from this era.

 

Sad that the actors were sometimes segregated.

 

I do want to see more of Lena Horne's musicals and of course, I'm a big fan of Diahann Carroll.

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There should be a remake of Porgy and Bess with todays Afro-American stars like Denzel Washington as Porgy, Eddie Murphy as Sportin Life and Queen Latifa in the role played by Pearl Baily. The role of Bess I leave to you.

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If I were you I'd make post haste to see Cabin in the Sky, Stormy Weather and Carmen Jones - top flight entertainments with all black casts. Don't waste your time on The Wiz - attrociously second rate and horribly miscast!

 

If you haven't seen the following (not musicals) you should: Island in the Sun and Pinky.

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  • 1 month later...

I don't think there is a really great all-black film musical. *Porgy and Bess* should have been it, but it is so poorly made, and its leads are horribly miscast, imo. Call me crazy, but I think if you're going to be in a musical, the number 1 talent you should possess, is singing! I always wished that Ernest Lehman had decided to do his film version of *Hello, Dolly!*, with Pearl Bailey and an all-black cast, like they did it on stage, and which was such a tremendous success. If you took the current film, with its incredible sets, costumes, orchestrations, etc., and replaced the cast with Pearl and other talented black performers, that would have been a great film. Even miscast, it's pretty good, owing more to the aforementioned production values than its cast.

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  • 4 months later...

I don't agree that the film was horribly miscast. There were no other major Black actors to play these roles at the time of filming. It was felt that both Dandridge and Belafone's singing voices were not strong enough so they were dubbed. Bailey, Sammy Davis and Brock Peters used their own singing voices. The blame for the failure of the film is director Otto Preminger who replaced Rouben Mamolian. Preminger is not the ideal director for a musical and made the film very static looking. Nevertheless the film deserves a belated DVD/Blu Ray release.

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"Sparkle" (1976) with Irene Cara, a Supremes style story made before Dreamgirls hit Broadway, with a original score by Curtis Mayfield that yielded one big hit on the R&B charts: Something He Can Feel by Aretha Franklin (she's not in the movie but the only album released with the movie was her doing the songs). It's on DVD and turns up on the black channels (BET & TVOne) fairly regularly. Decent.

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  • 5 months later...

I want to expose my jaded teen to musicals and after *Singin' In The Rain*, I showed her *Cabin In The Sky.* Cabin was a great choice because of the fantasy aspect of the angels/devils and afterlife theme. Mr Tiki was impressed with Ethel Waters singing and Lena Horne's beauty. There is nothing racist about this movie (to me at least) and is simply a great movie period.

 

The kid also really likes the whole zoot suit jitterbug dancing jive thing and last night I previewed *Stormy Weather* as I couldn't recall it.

 

It featured a few song & dance numbers that made me cringe because of racist imagery:

The cakewalk had dancers wearing sunflower headdresses with smiling blackface centers. There was even a "minstral" comedy number with black actors wearing blackface with white around their mouths!

There were a couple of "African" inspired numbers, but that seemed ok, maybe I was just distracted by Bill Robinson dancing on the drums. (way cool zebra costumes on the girls)

Anyway, be forewarned.

 

Overall, the movie was a huge delight...Bill Robinson was the lead and I've never seen him so much in the spotlight before. Lena Horne did the best singing ever, she was truly a treasure, more than just beautiful.

There were a couple of numbers featuring Cab Callaway wearing the funniest zoot suit with a huge bow tie! Another outstanding singer immortalized in his heyday on film. Fats Waller plays piano too.

I had to laugh out loud when Cab had a "jive" conversation with Bojangles who couldn't understand a word of it. These days, those words are commonly spoken and Bojangles scoffed at it, he preferred to speak proper English.

 

These films (as well as many not shown on TCM) are available on DVD at your local library. I think it's very important to expose my teen to these "hot potato" films no one will broadcast on TV. Although SW contains a few uncomfortable moments, it's still worth watching to see these legendary black performers in big beautiful production numbers.

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