Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Cabin in the Sky


This has to be the best of the all-black movie musicals … not that there were a lot of them, but still. It has just about every black actor on the MGM lot, and plenty of other guests such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Great singing by Ethel Waters and Lena Horne, in her first screen appearance. It was also the first movie directed by the great Vincente Minnelli. It features some great tap and jazz and jitterbug dancing by some of the unheralded (to most white people) geniuses like Bill Bailey (who is said to have invented the moonwalk) and John William “Bubbles” Sublett. Another man whose name will forever contain quotation marks, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, shows he can do a lot more than get off great one-liners putting down Jack Benny. It’s a religious story of temptation and redemption, but done with wit and humor and a lot of heart. The usual cranks have accused it of racism, a charge that just doesn’t stick. Sure, shooting dice is a racial stereotype, but people of all races do it. (Anderson calls them “calamity cubes.”) In 1943, except for “race” movies made to be seen only by black people, the only black faces you saw in any movie were elevator operators, shoeshine boys, housemaids, and Pullman porters. And the fact is, MGM took a big chance making this film at all, knowing that all through the south theaters simply would never play it. Well, that’s the South’s loss. Those assholes never knew what they were missing.