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A TOUR-DE-FORCE OF TALENT FROM AN AMAZING CAST
on 27 August 2005
In these enlightened times, a movie such as Cabin in the Sky - which is heavily laden with racial stereotypes - seems awkwardly out of place. However, before we all jump on the political correctness bandwagon, it's worth remembering that the movie was made during WW2, and that Civil Rights Movements were some 20 or so years in the future.
Much has been written about the plot, so I won't focus on that. I will say, however, that this movie is a tour-de-force of talent. It marked Vincente Minelli's directorial debut, and he did a fine job. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Lena Horne and Ethel Waters all play their parts brilliantly. If there was any animosity between Lena and Ethel, it was probably down to the following fact: Ethel fought tooth and nail to climb the showbiz ladder, whereas Lena was the first African-American actress to be groomed specially for Hollywood. Ms Horne had specially designed gowns and mingled with the upper echelons of MGM. The moviemakers even created a special make up range for her in an effort to pass her off as an exotic Latin American belle. Lena refused to disrespect her race by denying her heritage.
Anyway, back to the film. It's Ethel Water's character, Petunia, that I warm to the most. She may have been downtrodden, and reduced to scrubbing floors. However, there's a down-to-earth warmth that radiates from her. Her rendition of "Happiness is a Thing Called Joe" is superb. The late Waters was a remarkable, versatile performer, and it's a shame that she's not as well known among the masses as Lena.
As for Lena's Georgia Brown, she's nothing short of breathtakingly beautiful. Ms Horne was something of a WW2 pin-up. She tempts the viewers (and the censors, no doubt!) with her sexy lingerie, and isn't shy to show off a good bit of thigh! The only other African American woman who showed this much flesh was Josephine Baker, but she was doing her thing in Paris!
The songs by Duke Ellington are great. Also look out for a young Louis Armstrong - he plays one of Lucifer's hilarious angels!
Cabin in the Sky is fine musical - a classic. So take a nostalgic trip down memory lane and enjoy one of the finest musicals of its era.