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USA 1975
Directed by
Berry Gordy
109 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars


Berry Gordy was the founder of Motown and writer of such hits as The Miracles’ ‘Shop Around’ and The Jackson 5 hit, ‘I Wan’t You Back”. A music legend he is. A film director he is not. He was producer on Lady Sings The Blues (1972) and clearly its commercial success spurred him on not only re-team that film’s stars, Diana Ross and Bill Dee Williams for this rag-to-riches story but to take over the role of director (some scenes were by an uncredited Tony Richardson).

Mahogany is the story of a young woman (not that Ross at 32 was so young) from Chicago's South Side who works days as a secretary in a department store and dreams of becoming a top fashion designer. She goes to art school, falls in love with a black political activist (Billy Dee Williams) and eventually has to choose between love and career.

Lady Sings The Blues far from being a great film but it is a near masterpiece compared to this exercise in Spike Lee before Spike Lee black film-making. Lee made it work spectacularly well but Berry, turns in a staggeringly awful film with no redeeming features. The presence of Anthony Perkins as a famous fashion photographer should warn anyone considering watching this film what a stinker it is. Perkins delivers in spades with Berry helping out especially in one scene which involves a bizarre homo-erotic tussle between the twitching Perkins and Williams and another with Perkins and Ross in a high speed suicide drive with the two actors trying to outdo each other in histrionics.

The diabolical script is a welter of cliché and pretension and the production design an unbroken display of wall-to-wall kitsch with a cheesy stand-by-your-man resolution that evidently was considered right-on by the black brothers and sisters who evidently were the film’s audience.  Ross’s acting in Lady Sings The Blues was just adequate but at least her character was deserving of our sympathy. That this is not the case here was apparently not noticed by Gordy who (unsurprisingly) never returned to the director’s chair.




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