In honor of Black History Month, I’ll be featuring films either starring or representing African American themes.
This repost and film duo for the month is the incomparable Nicholas Brothers. Their energy and dynamic dance routines are legendary and unmatched by any other artist then or now. Born during an era when African American entertainers were restricted in film appearances and even cut out for southern audiences, the Nicholas Brothers rose above and beyond the sensibilities of the times.
The Nicholas Brothers were a famous African American team of dancing brothers, Fayard (1914–2006) and Harold (1921–2000). Their highly acrobatic technique (“flash dancing“), demonstrated such a high level of artistry and daring innovations that they were considered by many to be the greatest tap dancers of their day.
Growing up with musician parents (mother played piano and father drums) who had their own band, the brothers were surrounded by some of the best Vaudeville acts of the time and became stars of the jazz circuit during the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance . Fayard and Harold went on to have successful careers performing on stage, film, and television well into the 1990s.
Their signature move was to leapfrog down a long, broad flight of stairs, while completing each step with a split. This move was performed to perfection in the finale of the movie, Stormy Weather . In my humble opinion, the “Jumpin’ Jive” dance number in Stormy Weather was the greatest movie musical sequence of all time!
Nicholas Brothers – Jump!
Another signature move was to arise from a split without using their hands.Gregory Hines (with brother Maurice – tap dancing brother and father team Hines, Hines and Dad) declared that if the Nicholas Brothers biography were ever filmed, their dance numbers would have to be computer generated because no one now could emulate them. Ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov once called them the most amazing dancers he had ever seen in his life.
The Nicholas Brothers influenced every dancer that came after. Including Michael Jackson. Here they are together on the Jackson’s TV Show.
Legends of dance that should always be remembered!
Nicholas Brothers and Gene Kelley
Fayard and Harold
Harold Nicholas, Dorothy Dandridge and Fayard Nicholas
I am so honored to be nominated again. I love the idea of this award because it welcomes new, awesome bloggers into the community. It feels good to be receiving but also giving back to the WordPress blogging community. I’d like to thank my wonderful nominator: Realwgeegiemidget for the opportunity to highlight other fellow bloggers! Make sure to check her out!
Now, some info on just what the Liebster Award is all about.
The Official Rules Of The Liebster Award
If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, write a blog post about the Liebster award in which you:
1. thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
2. display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
3. answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
4. provide 11 random facts about yourself.
5. nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)
6. create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.
7. list these rules in your post. Once you have written and published it, you then have to:
8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)
How did you choose the name for your blog? The name is a result of my love of film.
How did you decide on the subject of your blog? I’ve always loved film and studied in college. One day I thought I’d like to share my love with others. Hence my blog.
If you could choose a film to be reviewed in this blog which one would you choose? The Princess Bride.
Why? It’s a classic and I’d love to read your take on it.
Which of my film reviews would you pass onto a friend if you wanted them to see the film with you? Galaxy Quest.
Why? Loved your review focusing on Alan Rickman. (He’s so great) Also, your review provides a great synopsis of the film and makes the case for watching.
Which of my TV reviews would you pass onto a friend if you wanted them to watch the programme with you? Dallas.
Why? I love your enthusiasm and insider facts. I too was a fan and never missed an episode. I feel the same way about the Dallas sequel and love your reference to George Lucas and the Star Wars pre-sequels which I detested.
If you could move anywhere as an expat where would you move? Italy.
Why? Just saw the new Michael Moore film “Where to Invade Next” and Italy looked mighty good to me. Plus I’ve always wanted to travel there and I’m currently making plans to visit in 2017.
Final question… What 3 tips would you give for a first time blogger? 1. Write what you’re passionate about. 2.Think, what would I like to read in a blog post. What draws me in? 3. Read other blogs and comment. You might get ideas for your own but mostly it’s great to be part of the community and get feedback from fellow bloggers.
Random facts about me:
I’ve performed in Community Theatre as Actress and Singer. “Little shop of Horrors” was my favorite.
Would rather be hot than cold.
Love watching HGTV.
Love classic films from the 30’s and 40’s.
Beach vacations are my absolute favorites.
My other WordPress blog – Livinginthemoment2015 is about finding inspiration in my fight against both Colon and Breast cancer.
I enjoy a good peanut and jelly sandwich.
Bette Davis is my favorite classic actress.
I am a wife and mother of two beautiful children.
Questions for my nominees:
What’s been your favorite vacation?
Coffee or Tea?
What’s your favorite film from the 1980’s?
What inspired your blog name?
Favorite post from your blog?
What prompted you to follow my blog?
Favorite time of year?
What inspires you to write?
Where would be your dream vacation?
What TV show would you prefer to promote your blog?
What’s your favorite cartoon from childhood?
So now’s your turn nominees. Please comment on this post so I know you’ve accepted and I can keep a look out for your post.
This film “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” is from a previous post but I think it exemplifies the strength and determination that is the perfect subject matter for Black History Month. Tina Turner’s tumultuous life is explored and documented with the impeccable interpretation by the dynamic Angela Bassett.
James Brown may have been the hardest working man in show business, but he wasn’t being physically abused every day by his spouse. Unlike Tina Turner, the hardest working woman in show business who simultaneously raised a family while delivering show stopping, gut wrenching vocals that, at that time, girls weren’t supposed to be able to deliver.
Quoting my favorite critic – the late Roger Ebert’s review from 1993 – “…ranks as one of the most harrowing, uncompromising showbiz biographies I’ve ever seen.”
Bassett kills it with her living, breathing and – Whoa, check out those guns – transformation paying homage to the Queen of Rock – Tina Turner!
This is Angela Bassett’s hard work paying off; seamlessly blending Tina’s vocals with a powerful performance of her hard rockin’ hit – “Proud Mary”.
Tina Turner’s (Anna Mae Bullock) life is a testament to her resilience. I’ve been fortunate enough to see her live and believe me she is truly a force of energy “leaving it all on the stage” with every performance. “Proud Mary” (written in 1969 by singer/songwriter John Fogerty and recorded by his band Credence Clearwater Revival) is one of her most recognizable signature songs.
Tina’s interpretation is worlds away from the original southern rock version. With a completely different arrangement, it opens with Tina teasing that sometimes the audience might like to hear them do a song “nice and easy” but “we never, ever do nothing nice and easy” we always do it “nice and rough”. She further sets up the number by enticing the crowd with they’re going to do the first part “nice” but they’re going to do the finish “rough”.
Tina lived a life of poverty growing up in Nutbush, TN in the 1940’s, but found solace in the spirit and freeing experience of music and singing in the choir of her Southern Baptist church. She began her musical career in St. Louis in the 1950’s singing in Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm band.
Ike Turner (her husband) ended up trying to destroy not only her passion but her life. With hate in his heart and jealousy of her talent, he systematically physically and mentally abused her for years. However, through her strength of will and perseverance, she fought back, sued for divorce, and walked out the courtroom in 1978 (in spite of what Ike tried to prevent) with her dignity and above all – Her Name!
I love Tina Turner and smile because this routine has been performed more than once in the living rooms, basements, wherever by a generation of “rock girls” (myself included). Tearing it up, whipping our hair back and forth and just knowing we are too doggone hot!
This Grammy-winning performance of “Proud Mary”(1971) showcases the dynamic energy and incredible legs of the one, the only, the incomparable – Miss Tina Turner!
“Lady Sings the Blues” (1972) is the biopic of the troubled life and career of the legendary Jazz singer, Billie Holiday. Loosely based on her 1956 autobiography which, in turn, took its title from one of Holiday’s most popular songs. It was produced by Motown Productions for Paramount Pictures and directed by Sidney J. Furie.
When I first heard Diana Ross had been cast as Billie Holiday I thought, she can’t act and will never pull it off. I wasn’t a big Diana Ross fan but when I saw the movie I had to give her credit for her phenomenal, Oscar-nominated performance. She lost to Liza Minnelli in “Cabaret”, but I thought Ross deserved the award.
The opening sequence (which was shot in black and white in still pictures) made me sit up and go, whoa, she’s serious. Diana Ross, the glamorous diva wore no makeup and looked the part of a heroin addict. The movie overall was a triumph not only for Ross but the incredible cast including – Billy Dee Williams as Holiday’s boyfriend Louis McKay, and Richard Pryor as Piano Man.
(In 1936, New York City, Billie Holiday (Diana Ross) is arrested on a drugs charge.)
The story takes us from Billie’s tumultuous youth when in 1928 she is raped in the Baltimore brothel where she works as a housekeeper. She runs away to her mother who proceeds to get her a job in another brothel in the Harlem section of New York where she becomes a prostitute. Seeing that her life is going nowhere, she quits and heads to a local nightclub to become a showgirl. Billie has always had a love of music and has a remarkable voice. After “Piano Man” (Richard Pryor) accompanies Billie on the song”All of Me“, Jerry, the club owner, books her as a singer in the show.
Eleanora Fagan (April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959), professionally known as Billie Holiday lived a life that was an American tragedy full of turmoil, racism, and drug abuse. Despite all this we are left with her incredible song catalog and heartfelt performances.
Holiday had a tremendous influence on jazz music and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. “God Bless the Child” became Holiday’s most popular and covered record. It reached number 25 on the charts in 1941 and was third in Billboard’s songs of the year, selling over a million records. In 1976, the song was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Billie Holiday died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1959 when she was 44. The biggest triumph of her career was her sold-out, standing ovation performance at Carnegie Hall.
Awards and Honors
“Lady Sings the Blues” was nominated for five Academy Awards. The nominations were for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Diana Ross), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Carl Anderson and Reg Allen), Best Costume Design (Norma Koch), Best Music, Original Song Score and Adaptation (Gil Askey & Michel Legrand) and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced.The film was also screened at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival but was not entered into the main competition.
Motown released a hugely successful soundtrack double-album of Ross’ recordings of Billie Holiday songs from the film, also titled Lady Sings the Blues. The album went to number one on the Billboard Hot 200 Album Charts, for the week-ending dates of April 7 and 14, 1973.
On June 12, 1982, NBC broadcast the revue with the original Broadway cast and that’s what this post is about and how I experienced the production, which blew me away! Fats Waller songs are classic and give a jumpin’ snapshot of the 1920’s and 1930’s with the cast so brilliantly bringing his songs to life. His signature song was “Ain’t Misbehavin” which is the opening number for the 1982 production.
Waller was an American jazz pianist, organist, composer, singer, and comedic entertainer, whose innovations to the Harlem stride style laid the groundwork for modern jazz piano, and whose best-known compositions, “Ain’t Misbehavin‘” and “Honeysuckle Rose”, were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1984 and 1999.
“Ain’t Misbehavin” was a feature number in the acclaimed 1943 film “Stormy Weather”.
Some of my favorite songs from the NBC production are: “Ain’t Misbehavin”, “The Joint is Jumpin”, and the hilarious”Your Feet’s too Big”.
There were plenty of awards for the 1978 production of “Ain’t Misbehavin” including:
In honor of Black History Month, I’ll be featuring films either starring or representing African American themes.
My next film for the month is “Stormy Weather (1943). An American musical film produced and released by 20th Century Fox. Considered one of the best Hollywood musicals with an all African-American cast, the other being MGM’s Cabin in the Sky. “Stormy Weather” is considered a brilliant showcase of some of the top African-American performers of the time, during an era when African-American actors and singers rarely appeared in lead roles in mainstream Hollywood productions, especially those of the musical genre.
This movie blew my mind! I saw it as a kid in the early sixties having no idea that there had ever been an all Black cast in a Hollywood production. Most of the premier entertainers of the 1940’s appeared in this tour de force that still stands as one of the best musicals of all time!
Katherine Dunham and troupe’s “Stormy Weather” full dance sequence.
“Stormy Weather” was the 2nd all Black cast film made by a major studio in the 1940’s. “Cabin in the Sky” (1943) was the 1st, produced by MGM. Lena Horne starred in both and became famous for her rendition of “Stormy Weather” although Ethel Waters first performed the classic at The Cotton Club Nightclub in Harlem in 1933.
Ethel Waters was a famous blues, jazz, gospel vocalist and actress. Her best-known recordings include “Dinah”, “Stormy Weather”, “Taking a Chance on Love” and “Cabin in the Sky” (She also starred in the film) Let’s enjoy her interpretation of the classic tune by Arlen and Koehler:
The song was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler who worked as music composers at the renowned Cotton Club from 1930-1934. They wrote many of the jazz revue songs that were performed at the club and are still classics today. Harold Arlen wrote the music and Ted Koehler the lyrics.
“Stormy Weather” was selected in 2001 to The Library of Congress National Film Registry.
Get ready to have your “mind blown”! This dance sequence by the Nicholas Brothersis unreal. Check it out. Holy crap!!
Being from Motown I was totally drawn to this blog post because of its tribute to Motown and the incredible talent of its artists, (ex. Temptations, Smoky Robinson, The Supremes) and the genius of Berry Gordy!