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USA, 1943 (MIFF 1997, All That Jazz)

Director: Andrew L. Stone

One of very few all-black films made by the major studios, Stormy Weather was intended to include Negroes in the World War II war effort. It is also, sort of, the story of black American jazz from the return of James Reese Europe's World War I army brass band in 1919 through swing to 1943, and, also sort of, a Bill 'Bojangles' Robin­son biopic. What it emphatically and thoroughly is, is a black musical which succeeds on the strength and flash of great numbers by black artists. The film is the myth of a black community sustained by jazz and the myth of black entertain­ment as a conduit for the black world into main­stream (read 'white') America.

Stormy Weather is a handbook of black entertain­ment between the wars: the astonishing dancer Bill Robinson; singer Lena Home at the beginning of her stardom; Belty Boop co-star and author of Hepcat's Hipionary, Cab Calloway (in the definitive zoot suit); the unbelievable dancing Nicholas Brothers (let Savion Glover try that!); and, floating in and out, the ineffably sly Fats Waller. And more - nonstop! As with many films from the era, it is frequently overtly racist and sexist. Outmoded attitudes considered, don't let the political incor­rectness of a half-century ago prevent you from enjoying some of the most spirited and energetic performances committed to celluloid.

See also...


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Donald McGlynn has developed documen­tary portraiture of jazz musicians to a fine art. Dexter Gordon - More Than You Know is his latest exemplary effort. Gordon is the transitional fig­ure ... More »


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