Monday, July 9, 2012

Americana Part Three

"Stormy Weather", a 20th Century Fox musical from 1943, is a time capsule containing excellent performances by some of the greatest African-American singers, dancers and musicians of the first part of the last century. The amazing Fats Waller does two songs in the film. These were some of his last recordings since he died later that year at the age of 39. The film also has Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, The Nichols Brothers, Bill Robinson and more.

However, the time capsule also contains the toxic racial history of the United States. It's a segregated film in that there are only African-Americans in it. Additionally, although some of the male performers are light skinned and some dark skinned, the female performers are universally light skinned. Was this a diktat from some studio bureaucrat? WTF?

In one scene Cab Calloway is wearing a wonderful zoot suit. This is darkly ironic since 1943 was the year of the Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles. Racist white servicemen, with the support of military and police authorities, attacked Latino, African-American and Filipino youth wearing zoot suits . One should never get too nostalgic for the perceived "good old days".

Nonetheless, I recommend this film for its great music, great dancing and great energy. Time traveling is fun.

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