Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Time to Polish My "Mahogany"

Though many times I don't, today I do know where I'm going to. I'm headed into the whirling, exotic, camptastic, chiffon-laden world of Tracy Chambers. WHO? You might know her best (and if you don't, you really ought to!) as the world-famous super-model Mahogany, as portrayed by Miss Diana Ross in the 1975 film called (what else?), Mahogany.

By 1985, Ross had already achieved considerable fame as the lead singer for the sensational songbirds, The Supremes, being groomed to “work a dress” in the process, and had proceeded to carry on a successful solo career after leaving that group in 1970.

In 1972, she starred in the Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues with Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor, gleaning an Oscar nomination as Best Actress. (The award went to another singing actress, Liza Minnelli, for Cabaret.) Thus, she was primed for another cinematic showcase, this time to be directed by her often Svengali-like musical producer Berry Gordy.

The project of choice was Mahogany, the tale of a girl from the decaying projects of Chicago who attends design school with the dream of becoming a fashion designer, but whose life takes a major turn when she is instead thrust into the heady world of high-priced modeling. This was an interesting subject because in 1974 Vogue magazine had broken with longstanding tradition and placed a black model, Beverly Johnson, on its cover for the first time in its history. Johnson would appear on Elle the next year as well.
While it can't be said that Beverly Johnson was the basis for this story, her notability and trailblazing within her given arena did lend the movie a sort of timeliness that is forgotten now for those who have long become used to super-models of all ethnicities. Miss Johnson also had a lean, flat-chested physique that Miss Ross' mirrors in the movie. Take note, too, of this particular dress that Johnson is sporting, for a similar one takes center stage near the beginning of the movie. On that note, let's head there ourselves...

Mahogany opens with a crowded, ornately detailed fashion show (part of which glows in the dark!), chock full of unusual Asian-flavored get-ups (billed by an announcer as the “Kabuki finale!”) We watch as the garishly made-up and garbed models show off their wares and then meet the designer herself, Ross, as she comes out to accept all the accolades, which are plentiful. She retreats backstage for a moment where she is stopped cold by mention of the word “success” and the movie then skips back in time to a few years prior.

Now the theme song, one which went on to become a smash hit for Ross - “Do You Know Where You're Going To” - and which permeates the movie, begins to play as we meet her in her younger days. (In this scene and a later one in Rome, one really can't escape the feeling of Barbara Parkins riding a train in Valley of the Dolls while that movie's theme song plays on and on...) She's a Chicago-bred design student, working at a major department store in order to pay her way through school.

Her instructors chide her for daring to show imagination and over-embellishment in her assignments when all they are asking for is simplicity. Stubborn and stuck on her vision of what is fashionable, she resists their pressure to follow the rules.

She is inspired by juvenile vandals who she spies spray-painting one of the city's walls as she commutes to work and begins to add some of their colors to the gown she's sketching. The draped, yellow chiffon dress is given a rainbow of stripes to add punch to its otherwise simple design. She coerces her devoted seamstress aunt Beah Richards to whip up the creation in the precious little time she gets away from her job at a sweatshop-like clothing factory.
Her boss at the department store (Marshall Field's?) is the commanding and effortlessly chic Nina Foch, whose every moment on screen is a gift for those familiar with her. Somehow she is able to completely deliver a character, warts and all, that is quite captivating with only a modicum of dialogue. She is on the verge of losing patience with Ross, whose focus is on designing instead of the promotional and window display work she's been hired to do.

One day, noted fashion photographer Anthony Perkins is set to arrive at the store in order to photograph a set of clothing (and a rather phallic telescope.)  After clicking frame after frame of some of the most unlikely models anyone has ever come upon, he turns to notice Ross, who is there simply to accompany her boss Foch and assist with whatever needs there might be. As it turns out, Perkins feels that he needs Ross to model the clothes. (And why not when he's otherwise stuck with the playpen of "models" that the casting director has chosen, probably in a bid to make Ross look even better by comparison!)
Foch puts a quash on that, but before long, Ross is showing off the gown that her aunt has sewn for her and Perkins is having a grand time snapping pictures of her as she swirls and twirls around a storage room. Foch is less than pleased by this development.

She's even less pleased when Ross begins to miss work in order to shop her various designs around to several of the local fashion houses and manufacturers. Ever confident of her talent, she loses patience after a while with the men who take little or no interest in her sketches. (One of these is comic writer Bruce Vilanch in his on-screen acting debut!) This hooky from work ends up costing Ross her job.

Meanwhile during all of this, Ross has caught the attention of a local activist, Billy Dee Williams, who is in the process of running for a local alderman's position and who spends most of his free time bellowing out platitudes about poverty and social change from a bullhorn. On a whim, she pours some of the milk from her recently purchased groceries into the horn and when he goes to use it, he is doused. Unaware that she has anything to do with it, he blames some local toughs who'd been baiting him and a fight breaks out.
Feeling guilty, she arranges his bail, but has to rely on him to pay her back since the check she wrote was rubber! Having bumped into each other once more at the unemployment office, she kiddingly employs a routine in which she paints herself as a widow with hungry children who “needs her ol' man back.” They embark on a tentative relationship, though he is clearly focused on his career in politics, while she still hasn't given up on her dreams of becoming a top fashion designer.

Conflict arises when she can't devote the time to his career that he wants and he considers her own pursuits frivolous and meaningless. This is brought home in an argument as she is assisting Perkins on a photo shoot that uses a variety of poor black people as nothing more than props for glamorous fashions being modeled by white girls. Later, just as Williams is counting on her for support, Perkins offers Ross a job in Rome, Italy, a fashion cornerstone of the world!

Unable to resist this opportunity, Ross takes off for Rome, getting a scenic tour of the place from her cab driver (as the strains of “Do You Know Where You're Going To,” orchestrated in an achingly beautiful style by Lee Holdridge, play once more.) Perkins wants her solely as a model, but she feels that it is nevertheless a great launching pad for her.

Perkins reveals himself to be quite the obsessive personality, his apartment adorned with all sorts of pictures of a prior fixation of his, “Crystal.” The blonde model is splattered everywhere in all sorts of poses, including topless pictures, but with one viciously scratched at and scuffed and used as a dartboard, a clue that he could be someone not to cross without suffering consequences.

Declaring that he renames all of his lucky protegees after inanimate objects, she is dubbed “Mahogany.” (During a recent viewing, my friend Joe and I had fun cackling over the possible runner-up names such as “Walnut,” “Tigerwood,” “Birch” or “Old Hickory!”)

Perkins gussies her up in a tre chic honey-taupe ensemble and, in a scene that presages 1983's Flashdance in its “new meat inspected by a row of judges” flavor, has her present herself to the directors of Gavina, an Italian fashion house. She poses and contorts while a couple of crass old men dispute her attributes.

In a moment I worship, she turns “street” on them and curtly gives them what for, tossing one final insult onto the sole woman in the room who's remained quiet throughout. As it turns out, the woman (Marisa Mell), quite agrees with Ross' point of view and, fortunately, happens to be THE Gavina! She's hired.
Herein begins a parade of playful, exotic, dramatic, fantastic, fantastically lunatic fashion shoots with Miss Ross decked out in a large number of hairdos, gowns, bodysuits, furs and other items all set to, yes, WE DO KNOW, “Do You Know Where You're Going To!”

And you know what? I don't care how many times I see this movie (and it's been plenty over the years), I still love that song and the alternately gentle and dramatic, haunting arrangement of it that appears over (and over) the arresting visuals, only a smattering of which are shown here.

Ever a sucker for the treacly, melodramatic and sentimental, I couldn't understand it in 1976 (when I was nine - LOL!!) and I can't understand now how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave the Best Song Oscar to Keith Carradine's “I'm Easy” from Nashville instead of to this!

Perkins can barely contain his obsessive lust for Ross, though she isn't quite sure he's even straight! He takes umbrage at the mere notion that he's anything but, yet when push comes to pump, the votes are tallied and he still hasn't been able to win her over.
Things go along swimmingly (as in Perkins pushing her, fully garbed, into one of Rome's many fountains) until a couple of things chip away at the glee of their newfound partnership.

At one of their shoots, she emerges from her trailer bedecked in one of her Mahogany originals and learns the hard way that Perkins dislikes it. (Or at least, pretends to dislike it as a method of acting out his frustration over his bubbling repression and unfulfilled desire for her.)
Then, at a major league fashion event for charity, Ross agrees to model one of the designer's signature gowns, but, still not having learned her lesson, surreptitiously substitutes one of her own creations just before entering the runway. Before a packed, stunned audience, she contorts down the runway dramatically, attempting to show the world her satin dragon get-up. Perkins, in the mood to humiliate her even further, makes a preposterously low bid, inciting laughter amongst the crowd.
Finally, just as she is almost completely crushed, a kindly, empathetic savior (Jean-Pierre Aumont) comes to her rescue and enthusiastically bids nearly seven times more than any of the other dresses have sold for. After the show (sporting a wig and dress that are very iconically DIANA ROSS of that era), she thanks him profusely for his generosity.

This look, in fact, was pretty close in scheme to what was used for her Mego Barbie-like doll that came out within two years of Mahogany; the doll, not the photo on the box. Little fruits of the world (one of whom who will certainly remain nameless) could play the soundtrack album over and over while spinning the 12-1/2” Diana Ross doll around and around, maybe even changing her hair and clothes to create different looks.
Suddenly, Williams appears in Rome and Ross is delighted to see him. He has lost his campaign as alderman and thus has come to see her to give her another shot. She takes him to a tailor who fits him with a new sport coat (too snugly, in my own unprofessional opinion, though it could be because Williams wears a thick turtleneck no matter which continent he's on or which hemisphere he's in!) and they romantically do the town.
Then it's time for one of Perkins' parties and things start to take a nosedive again. Williams, a macho man who doesn't even like being seen carrying shopping bags, finds himself immersed in the outre world of designers, models, performers and other unusual folks. Perkins wants him out of the way and decides to push him to the limit. He invites him to a private room of his which is filled with gruesome photos of people in death (along with a portrait of author Ernest Hemingway, who shot himself) and racks of guns.

The two have a testy tete a tete with a handgun as the prize and in the end Williams is so disgusted by Perkins' demeanor and behavior he storms out of the party. This causes the beleaguered and desperate Ross to engage in a sultry dance in which she partially disrobes and begins to symbolically immolate herself with scalding dripping candle wax!
Williams and Ross cannot come to any sort of stable arrangement, so he leaves, but not without first telling her emphatically that,”Success is NOTHING without someone you love to share it with.” She dutifully reports to another photo shoot for Perkins, but he still has it in for her for not loving him (or turning him into a “man?”) By now consumed with his array of perverse obsessions surrounding death, he and Ross become involved in a hair-raising (literally!) automobile accident.
The result is that she is facially damaged and darn near killed. Just when she is at her lowest, rescue comes in the form of Aumont, who has not forgotten her from the charity auction. He houses her in his exquisite estate and helps to nurse her back to health. Once better, he arranges for her true dream, that of a fashion designer, to come to fruition.

It doesn't take long for Ross to assume the haughty, overbearing, demanding attitude that has long been associated with people possessing a strong ego. Not to say she's playing herself here, but you can bet your ass that more than one hotel maid has gotten this facial reaction from Miss Ross at one time or another along with the remarkably shrill tone she affects during this sequence!
Since the movie opened with the big runway collection debut, there never was any question that Ross would become a designer, but I guess there was some degree of suspense as to how she'd get there. However, having reached the goal she has wanted all her life, she seems spent, despondent and, true to Williams' prediction, totally alone. But will she stay that way?

Critics seemed to delight in handscraping Mahogany for its roll call of soap opera cliches. Though contemporary at the time, the movie calls to mind a host of other, venerable movies from the rags to riches films Joan Crawford starred in at MGM (and, like Joan, Ross lives in a squalid neighborhood, but her apartment is pristine!) to later gems. Certain scenes call to mind 1960's BUtterfield 8 (the red sports car flying into a construction site), 1961's Back Street (the fashion milieu and the struggle over the steering wheel) and 1966's Madame X (the recuperation period at the hands of a wealthy benefactor), whether deliberate or not. Anyone complaining about this is simply missing the fun of it all!

Of course, the movie was intended to be taken seriously. Esteemed, Oscar-winning director Tony Richardson (for Tom Jones in 1963) was initially at the helm, but was fired part way through with Berry Gordy taking over the reins. It was Berry's first and only time in that capacity (and I must say that, whatever flaws the movie may have, the finished product skillfully manipulates a willing audience and features a fashion montage that was memorable enough to be aped in 2006's Dreamgirls.)

Probably the biggest issue it has, to my mind anyway, is it's message that a woman can only be happy if she has a man in her life and that her dreams, realized or not, can take a back seat so long as she has one! The way Ross is exploited and mistreated by this man and that one, she may as well have been dubbed “Misogyny.” The tie-in book, perhaps trading more on Ross' own reputation rather than the rather tread-upon character of the movie, describes Mahogany as "tempestuous."

Mahogany was a hit film in spite of its detractors. Ross (sixty-eight at present), whose only previous movie role had bagged her an Oscar nomination, seemed poised for a legitimate career in the cinema, but The Wiz, released in 1978, put a stop to that. She has never since acted in a feature film. In Mahogany, there is no denying her camera-ready charisma. It's a meaty part and she handles it well. She also establishes considerable chemistry with her love interest, the same one from Lady Sings the Blues (!), Williams. Astonishingly, she receives the movie's SOLE costume design credit, though there is no conceivable way they she did anything more than consult and suggest ideas for a portion of the film's clothing.

Williams had been around on TV and in the movies since the late 1950s, a high point being the 1971 TV-movie Brian's Song, which earned him an Emmy nomination. (The award went to Keith Michell in The Six Wives of Henry VIII.) He went into a brief decline after Mahogany and didn't make another feature for five years, but when he did it was a big one. He landed the role of Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back in 1980! He then did Return of the Jedi in 1983 and proceeded on to a very steady, but unremarkable career. He is seventy-five today.

Perkins started out in films in 1953 and got an Oscar nomination for 1957's Friendly Persuasion, though the award went to Anthony Quinn in Lust for Life. (Can you imagine him sitting there, waiting for the envelope to be opened, only to hear, “And the winner is, Anthony... Quinn”??!!) His iconic (and tremendously typecasting) role was in 1960's Psycho. Looking back, it is astonishing that his unforgettable work in that netted him no award consideration to speak of. Here, he's traded in his stuffed wildlife for guns and his knife for a camera. No one else could have brought the same level of creepy, detached derangement to the role, though. Perkins died in 1992 at only age sixty from the complications of AIDS.

French actor Aumont had screen credits going back to the earliest part of the 1930s and worked steadily in a wide variety of projects until the mid-1990s when he retired. Prior to Mahogany, he'd worked for Francois Truffaut in the acclaimed 1973 film Day for Night. Interestingly, his second wife was Maria Montez and his third (and final one, from 1953 on) was Marisa Pavan, the actress sister of Pier Angeli, who became his widow in 2001 when he died of a heart attack at age ninety.

Richards is one of those character actors we always enjoy seeing, either in hooty camp like Hurry Sundown (1967) or more celebrated fare like In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (both also 1967.) She was both Oscar and Golden Globe nominated for Dinner, but lost to Estelle Parsons in Bonnie and Clyde and Carol Channing in Thoroughly Modern Millie respectively. She acted on screen from the late-1950s until her death in 2000 from emphysema at age eighty. Her final movie was Oprah Winfrey's Beloved in 1998.

Foch (whose last name rhymes with “gosh,” though Robert Osborne has also pronounced it like “gauche”) is another actress whose presence is always a treat. A rare starring role occurred for her in 1945's My Name is Julia Ross (later remade in 1987 as Dead of Winter with Mary Steenbergen), but more often she was a supporting player. Whether as Moses' adoptive mother in The Ten Commandments (1956), a Roman noblewoman in Spartacus (1960) or Sharon Stone's leasing agent in Sliver (1993), she always brought a special glint to her roles. Her sole Oscar nomination came with 1954's Executive Suite, which she lost to Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront (a leading role nestled into the Supporting category.) An acclaimed acting teacher, Miss Foch died in 2008 at eighty-four of a blood disorder, having taught the previous day.

Austrian actress Mell had a busy career in French and other European films from the early-1960s on with Mario Bava's psychedelic 1968 spy flick Danger: Diabolik one of the best known. Already by that time she had survived a serious car accident of her own in 1963 which required plastic surgery. A strange blip in 1968 had her performing the title role in a David Merrick-produced/Vincente Minnelli-directed stage musical called Mata Hari, opposite Pernell Roberts, but the show flopped badly. Sadly, she died in 1992 of cancer at only age fifty-three, reportedly in dire financial straits.

The designer who has her charity fashion show momentarily hijacked by Ross was a real and true person by the name of Princess Irene Galitzine. (You can hear her referred to on screen as "Princess.") Her parents, a prince and princess, had to flee Russia during the revolution and wound up in Italy. A salon owner and designer from 1946 on, she was innovative enough to spearhead the "palazzo pyjama" look in 1960. Her company is still in operation today, though she died in 2006 at age ninety.

This is the type of movie that one either enjoys or loathes, depending on his point of view. My aforementioned friend Joe recently bemoaned the fact that he has trouble coming up with movies to watch together that I have never seen. I told him to try showing me something that's allegedly good! LOL (I've seen Mahogany at least six or seven times.) Whether he meant to do it or not, Berry Gordy fashioned a tale that caters to many of my favorite cinematic fascinations, from lush music to chiffon to makeovers to camp. I love it!

15 comments:

NotFelixUnger said...

This movie is always a treat to watch. Since the first time I saw it I thought, "Gosh this reminds me of Back Street." Of course, Back Street is one of my favorites. This movie is a little too 70s for it to fall into my top 10 [or 20]. Still, it's wickedly fun every time.

Regarding the famous, "I don't wake up till noon," ego, I can honestly say, I saw her in Vegas during the 80s. Back then it was built more like a dinner theater and people sat at actual tables though the venue was huge. It was a group of us. Some girls, some boys, some straight some gay. Two of the more flamboyant boys at the table caught her attention. After the show she came to the table and draped herself over those two boys all night long. My friend Adriana and I kept fighting each other for the camera taking pictures of Miss Ross with her boys. To this day I have about 20 pictures of Miss Ross with some fellas and I'm not in a single one!

The reason why I am reminded of that story is that though I have heard the horror stories of the famous ego, I never saw an ounce of it when I was within a 6 foot radius. She was charming, charismatic, funny, engaging and quite, quite gracious.

NotFelixUnger said...

BTW! "Polish my Mahogany????"

Wasn't I just insisting not too long ago this was a classy joint??

joel65913 said...

I'll have to renew my memory of this. It's been years since I watched it and it didn't make much of an impression at that point but maybe a review is in order, it sounds like much more fun than I remember.

I saw Miss Ross in concert at a theatre in the round about a 15 years ago and she was enchanting and wonderful with the intimate audience and dressed to the teeth. However a family member of mine worked at the venue and said she was an odious reptile to work with.

Your comment about Nina Foch's ability to make a small character flesh and blood in a few small scenes brought to mind another great actress and her talent for doing the same. I saw Agnes Moorehead in a movie a few years ago, a TV movie called the Ballad of Andy Crocker about a returning Vietnam vet, where in one scene consisting of less than 10 minutes screen time she conveyed all you needed to know about her character through body language and minimal dialogue. Granted her competition for acting honors was not high, the leads were Lee Majors and Joey Heatherton!, but she made something memorable out of practically nothing. I have seen Nina Foch do the same in many films, sometimes being the only worthwhile thing in a picture.

Narciso Duran said...

Oh dear, do I have a memory to share about this film! I was in junior high school when Mahogany came out, and one of my budding gay boy classmates did an English class presentation in which he acted out the juicy scenes from "Mahogany."

I do clearly recall him coaxing the reluctant class fat girl to play the part of Beah Richards. He held up a felt-pen drawing of the colorful gown as prop...

He also portrayed a scene in which he cried, I don't recall which. Granted, this was the San Francisco Bay Area, but still, i have to give the little towhead credit for guts.

By the way, as I devour your older posts, and believe me they are tasty, what if I want to add a comment? Will you be able to read them? Will all comments somehow be flagged to your attention even if it for an older post?

Poseidon3 said...

Whew! Lots of reactions to this one! (I'm glad since I put a LOT of time into it!!)

NotFelix & Joel, regarding Diana and your experiences with her, I wonder if she was not putting her best foot forward while in the public eye, being very "on" while the fans were around, but then let her guard down behind the scenes. Still, NotFelix, I know that what you saw and heard for yourself is authentic. Mood swings?? Who knows.

I can tell you that in her prime, I would have crawled through broken glass to catch a mere glimpse of Faye Dunaway and she was once here to perform Master Class on stage. A friend of mine who has directed, starred in and worked on countless shows for thirty years (and seen countless more) said that seeing Faye in that show was her most memorable experience in the theatre EVER. (I still kick myself for missing it!) However, the hotel that was housing Dunaway had a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons. This was not long after Princess Diana's death which was at least partly due to Paparrazi and the hotel had put Faye in a room that was away from the fire escapes, for fear that a nosy local photog would climb up and try to snap pics of her. All was fine until she discovered that the room near the fire escapes was just a tad larger than the one she was booked into and so ALL had to be moved from one suite to the other. This miffed the employees greatly. Still, I also heard that she was at a small local movie theater and was amiably chatting with other waiting patrons in the lobby about the movies that were there. I think so much of it has to do with the time, place, mood of a given moment.

Joel, I have a $1 DVD of "The Ballad of Andy Crocker" and really enjoyed it. I seem to recall Agnes skeet shooting during the scene you mention. She is always wonderful. There's a tribute to her here somewhere that you ought to be able to find if you click her name on the right.

And Narciso, number one: that story is HILARIOUS! I guess quite a few little gaylings were taken with this movie!! Priceless scenario... Number two: by all means, YES, I get to see comments no matter how old the posts are. I get an e-mail every time sent to my inbox at work. So please do comment away. I love to read what others have to say about the subjects I dwell on here in The Underworld.

Thank you all so much for sharing. I really liked hearing the recollections about Diana Ross and her impact on people! :-)

Narciso Duran said...

Thank you Poseidon. As requested, I posted a few comments on your "vintage" entries... Please permit me some space: your writing is wonderful. I was a writer and copy editor at a newspaper for a dozen-plus years, so believe me, I know.

You always seem to strike the right note: observant, respectful, awestruck, dishy, gentle, pointed, poignant, diplomatic, and sweet, all at once.

An ordinary writer would drop a few mean cracks about facelifts and minuscule genitals and then be done with it. Their ilk is a dime a dozen.

What you have accomplished, however, is admirable and rare these days: observe, report, inform, and then comment. You educate us first, and then entertain us. Your personality shines through via your ethos. And your bank of knowledge is so darned formidable!

If Robert Osborne ever retires, go bang on TCM's door. If that fails, write the first comprehensive book about made-for-television movies.

I know I am not wrong as many here have posted similar comments. Forget the new Pope, I'll kiss your ring first! Happy Spring folks.

Poseidon3 said...

Holy mother of god! Narciso, that is one very flattering and touching response to my site and myself. I am very appreciative and deeply complimented by it. I am surprised, however, that anyone could think highly of my actual "writing" as I am not nearly educated enough when it comes to proper use of grammar or punctuation and I never met parentheses, commas or run on sentences that I didn't love! Ha! But I try...

I can't lie about it. My dream job would be to talk about, write about, interview about and become immersed in classic movies. But that's one of those fantasy type of scenarios that seems out of reach. Someday I may set to work on a book, though. I have at least one solid idea for one.

Anyway, again, I welcome you and thank you VERY MUCH for your remarks!

Percy said...

I concur with Narciso, I've been in love with your blog for years now!! And I don't just love, I LUV Mahogany. I was one of many future gayboys who was entranced by this film in junior high. Thank you for reviewing and schooling me in this fabulous film. By the way, I don't know what's crazier about Mahogany: that, at 5 foot nothing, Miss Ross, as beautiful as she is, would become a world famous supermodel, or that anyone would buy her "couture" inspired by a Chinese Restaurant, or the homoerotic, S&M fight betwixt Tony Perkins and Billy Dee -- it's all AMAZING!!!

Ken Anderson said...

Hi Poseidon
First off, I have to concur with the earlier comment about your writing. You underestimate your skill in providing facts, personal observations, and wit in your posts. All in a very readable, entertaining fashion. The net is full of film sites with writing so dry that the actual thrill of movies is lost. You strike just the right note of fandom and film scholar to inspire folks to visit the films you write about.
Now, on to "Mahogany"...I can never figure out why I avoided this film when it came out, for it would have been a favorite in my teens. I only got around to seeing it on cable TV in the 80s and couldn't believe my luck. It was the good/bad movie of my dreams.
Although it is nothing but deliciously full-tilt camp to me, the background info of your post reminds me of how much of a missed opportunity it was. There's a lot that could have been done with the film, but it feels so amateurishly directed, and the ultimate message of Maghogany leaving behind her dreams still seems a lousy one to send to young girls (well, let's face it girls are not "Mahogany"s biggest audience, anyway). Still, I , like you, love the theme song, and Diana as a clothes horse is heaven. Oddly, I don't own this film, but I think It'd high time I got it. Loved reading all the facts about the cast you dug up.Excellent post, as always!

NotFelixUnger said...

To echo the other guys, your writing is fantastic. It's like reading a conversation I had with myself inside my own mind! It's fun, witty, informative yet titillating, too! [I love the word "titillating." I so rarely get to use it!]

Finding a good writer is easy. Finding a great writer with his/her pulse on the pop-culture significant to one or more generations is a hard thing to do.
It's the reason I keep coming back!

Happy weekend ya'all. [I started bee-keeping recently. I just entered the hive for a look for the first time 30 mins ago. I'm sweating, shaky and I need a drink. No stings! They like me! They really like me!]

Narciso Duran said...

Bee-keeping, NotFelixUnger? That reminds me of my all-time favorite made-for-tv movie, "Killer Bees" (1974) starring Miss Gloria Swanson and Miss Kate Jackson (the only woman on whom I ever had a crush).

Give me a few tips Not FelixU., should I channel Miss S. or MIss J the next time I prune my roses? : )

I was so gone for that film, that when I was a pre-teen, I demanded my folks drive me up to the Napa Valley (where my mom was raised) just to stare at the house where the movie was made.

Cheers to all from NorCal !

NotFelixUnger said...

ND, I'm going to have to look that movie up. Right before checking on the girls yesterday for the first time, I did have visions of killer swarms! [Still a newbie here.]

By the way, the roll call for the "I have a crush on Kate Jackson" fan club is now up to two. Please make room. I too was madly in love with her and at times thought it would be wonderful to marry her. Then again, there were also times when I wanted to BE Wonder Woman.

As to roses, I have quite a few myself. I don't exactly channel her but I do have visions of Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest working the roses bushes and asking Tina for the axe! :-)

Bee well!

Scooter said...

I love Mahogany but...I have to admit that it is nearly impossible for me to sit through in its entirety. And I have tried. Many times. I find that a little past the half way point is when it is incredibly easy for me to get up and do something else...do laundry, clean something, start dinner. I always make it back before the end but your description of the plots second half...is a little foggy.

EricSwede said...

The comment by Narcisco Duran that you replace Robert Osbourne (when the time comes, of course) on TCM is genius! I played the soundtrack to this film to death when I was in high school but I never saw the movie until years later. I did have the novelization-I was almost shocked to see it again. A friend of mine from the South Side of Chicago told me Miss Ross was very cold (bitch was the word he used) to everybody who gathered in those God-forsaken neighborhoods to watch the Chicago filming. That is indeed Marshall Fields, I worked there briefly a few years after this-when they asked me to hide in a giant mirrored faux pillar to look for shoplifters on the sales floor I moved on. This movie provides a view of it only employees saw. Worthwhile for that if nothing else-today it's a dumpy Target. Miss Ross studied Fashion Design in school in Detroit so it wouldn't surprise me if she did do the costumes-either that or the real designer saw the final result and requested anonymity. Berry Gordy gave her everything she wanted in those days-even a child(!)

Poseidon3 said...

Eric, you (and the others) are TOO kind to suggest that I could ever begin to fill the irreplaceable shoes of Robert Osborne who has not only devoted his life to cinematic journalism, but was truly THERE all along and met anyone and everyone! However, I'm not so modest that I would be averse to hosting some sort of fun-filled film-oriented show (on TCM or some other, lesser place!) where guests and I could discuss all the great and wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) movies and stars that I cover here. ;-) Thank you so much for coming here and leaving your captivating comments.