CABIN IN THE SKY
Starring Ethel Waters and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson
with Rex Ingram, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington!
NOTES ON THE AUDIO COMMENTARY TRACK TO THE DVD
Boy oh boy is this some good stuff. For starters, this definitely has an above average actual story as far as movie musicals go, in that it was based on a Broadway play. There's a good simple morality play as an average Joe struggles against temptation with active intervention from Lucifer and his son, the Lord, a loving wife trying to keep him on the straight and narrow, and Satan's favorite daughter - 26 year old Lena Horne as Georgia Brown.
Mostly though, this was a musical and the movie has three additional songs by Harold Arlen and ever lovin' Yip Harburg besides what was in the stage play. This includes one of their biggest hits, "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe." But my favorite by far is "Consequences." Eddie Anderson's famous hoarse voice struggled to carry the tune, but he knew how to sell it and it makes a perfect effect of struggling against temptation as Lena Horne is urging him to "sip the honey while it's sweet." The best part of the movie musically, however, was probably the extended section at the Paradise bar with Duke Frickin' Ellington in full effect - and some awesome dancers doing stuff that would scare Fred Astaire.
It's unfortunate that black performers in those days didn't get near the film opportunities that they should have, which is our loss. But one sort of benefit of this was that when there came up an all black movie like this, they had lots of top talent in music and acting. Besides being the best singer in the movie, Ethel Waters was an excellent dramatic actress and a pretty fair dancer. Eddie Anderson was remarkable here as Joe in his ability to keep the comedy and the pathos going simultaneously. Plus he could do some stepping in the limited bit of that he got. Kenneth Spencer was utterly beautiful, and wonderfully upright with distinctly different personalities as the family minister and as the Lord's angelic General. John Sublett as the wicked Domino Johnson really knocked my socks off with his featured dance segment. And if making it to heaven involved resisting the active advances of young Lena Horne "throwing nature at your feet", I'm thinking that Jesus himself might not have made it.
Special mention must be made for the cameo appearance of Louis Armstrong. He had one scene, and just got to blow maybe one quick bar of trumpet before his boss Lucifer Jr (the absolutely delightful Rex Ingram) shows up. So there's Louis Armstrong with Mantan Morland and several other demons or "imps" as they're described at one point with horns on their heads, working in the "Ideas Department" in hell. Turns out that Louis was the one what came up with the idea of getting Eve to talk Adam into eating the apple. "That's how I started my career!" Then there's all the boys crowded around the phone while Lucifer Jr talks to "Pappy". It's worth watching the movie even just for this scene.
This movie works beautifully on about every level. It's a good story most especially held together by the acting and singing performance of Ethel Waters. It works as drama and comedy. Then there's all that great music, and some outstanding dancing. If you're even vaguely interested in movie musicals or jazz, Cabin in the Sky is a must own.
CABIN IN THE SKY TRAILER, PAGE 1 2 3 4
HELL IDEAS DEPARTMENT IMAGES, PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
LENA HORNE "AIN'T IT THE TRUTH" 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
AL BARGER'S CRUSADE FOR MOORISH DIGNITY
ETHEL WATERS "DARKIES NEVER DREAM" PAGE 1 2 3 4 5
MARTHA DAVIS IMAGES, PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
DOROTHY DANDRIDGE IMAGES, PAGE 1 2 3
DINAH WASHINGTON IMAGES, PAGE 1 2 3
VANITA SMYTHE IMAGES, page 1 2 3 4 5 6
RUTH BROWN IMAGES, PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
LENA HORNE "AIN'T IT THE TRUTH" 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
NINA SIMONE PICTURES 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Holla Back! Cabin in the Sky
Cabin in the Sky
Music Sustains the Soul
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