Knowing that Stormy Weather is the title of a song that helped vault Lena Horne (The Wiz) into celebrity fandom, I had very little other ideas about her. But the cool thing that I discovered while watching the film is that, for the age of this film, it’s better than anyone would possibly think.
Horne plays Selina Rogers, a beautiful talented singer who was dating the head of an entertainment show that came through New York. She catches the eye of Bill (Bill “Bojangles” Robin…on), and Bill spends the next few years doing what he can to get famous (he’s an excellent dancer) and woo Selina.
The story is somewhat transparent, as it’s really just a series of scenes to segue into Horne’s singing (which is great), Robinson’s dancing (he frequently worked with Shirley Temple before this), as well as other jazz greats. Among those names that may be familiar are Cab Calloway (The Blues Brothers), who makes a cameo near the end of the film. Other performers that appear are Fats Waller, Dooley Wilson (the piano player from Casablanca), who plays a supporting role to Robinson, and solo musicians like Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins. Fans of jazz will revel in the acts that appear.
Full screen black and white viewing for the common man. It looks excellent for a film that’s over 60 years old, with no artifact issues and a consistent black level. Everything is reproduced fabulously.
Dolby mono here, which is no surprise considering its age. One would hope that a 2 channel soundtrack would have been remixed and put into play, but it’s no big deal, because everything sounds clear and without problems.
Aside from some trailers, the only extra is a commentary track with Dr. Todd Boyd, a professor of Critical Studies at USC. Dr. Boyd provides a good look at the film’s context within the era and the social impact it brings. He also discusses the characters and provides some biographical information. There is some deconstruction of the film, and overall, it is an excellent compliment to the enjoyment of the film.
All in all, this film helped introduce more broader audiences to the individual work of Lena, Bojangles and Cab, and that’s never a bad thing. While it would have been nice to have an interview with Horne, I’m happy with what is here, and a lot of people should be as well. Definitely recommended for its historical and musical values for those unfamiliar with some of the older acts.
Special Features List