DVD Revisiting Harlem’s Chorus Girls Released
When the Apollo opened in 1934 at the height of the Big Band Era, one of the famed theater’s most popular features was its chorus line of chocolate cuties. Comprised of 16 shapely showgirls, these enchanting tap dancers managed to upstage some headlining jazz groups led by the likes of Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Count Basie.
After World War II erupted, out of a sense of patriotism this African-American troupe decided to join the USO tour in order to entertain the troops, only to be disillusioned about the United States as their caravan crisscrossed the country. For they experienced the sting of segregation whenever they were denied access to facilities or accommodations because of the color of their skin, hypocritical mistreatment which apparently even transpired on military bases in the “land of the free.”
Although the dancers’ popularity waned in the wake of the end of the War, five of them reunited to resume their careers in 1985. Now calling themselves the Silver Belles, and ranging in age from 84 to 96, their life stories are the subject of Been Rich All My Life, a labor of love directed, produced, filmed and edited by Heather Lyn MacDonald.
This enchanting, if bittersweet memoir seamlessly interweaves such wistful, tenderhearted reflections with archival film footage and the readily observable harsh realities associated with advanced age to yield a splendid slice of African-American history. These hardy survivors are nothing shot of inspiring to observe as they shuffle out on stage, never embittered either by racism or by the host of aches, pains and diseases which presently beset them, ranging from arthritis to broken hips to heart disease to cancer.
Excellent (4 stars)