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Bill Robinson, Dooley Wilson, "Stormy Weather," 1943

Bill Robinson, Dooley Wilson,

Synopsis of the 1943 musical film "Stormy Weather," which starred Lena Horne (June 30, 1917 - May 9, 2010), Bill Robinson (May 25, 1878 - November 25, 1949), Cab Calloway (December 25, 1907 – November 18, 1994), Fats Waller (May 21, 1904 – December 15, 1943), Dooley Wilson (April 3, 1886 – May 30, 1953), Emmett 'Babe' Wallace (June 24, 1909 - December 3, 2006), and Ada Brown (May 1, 1890 – March 30, 1950), via IMDb:
The relationship between an aspiring dancer and a popular songstress provides a retrospective of the great African American entertainers of the early 1900s.

More history and background on the WWII-era film, via AFI:
The working title of this film was "Thanks, Pal." According to contemporary sources, the film was loosely based on Bill "Bojangles" Robinson's life and was advertised as a "cavalcade of Negro entertainment." Robinson, who was born in 1878, began dancing professionally when he was eight and became a vaudeville and musical stage star before appearing in his first film, "Dixiana," in 1930 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.1367). He was the originator of the stair tap routine and enjoyed a reputation as one of the world's leading tap dancers. "Stormy Weather" marked Robinson's return to the screen after a five-year absence, and was his last film. He died in 1949.
 
"Stormy Weather" was the second all-black cast film made by a major studio in the 1940's; M-G-M's "Cabin in the Sky" was released just prior to "Stormy Weather" and also starred Lena Horne (see above entry). The famous comedy team of Miller & Lyles was recreated for the film, with Flournoy E. Miller playing himself and Johnny Lee replacing the deceased Aubrey Lyles. According to a 12 Nov 1942 HR news item, Louis Armstrong was sought for a role in the picture. Irving Mills, a composer and publisher of Harlem musical artists, who is credited onscreen as producer and William LeBaron's assistant, was hired because of his experience with "negro shows," according to a 24 Sep 1942 HR news item. News items in California Eagle include Lucille Battles, Anise Boyer, and Cleo Herndon in the cast and note that Nadine Cole, Nat King Cole's wife, dances in the picture. News items also list the following musicians as members of Jim Europe's band: Charles Wellan, Ulysses Banks, Earl Hale, Maxwell Davis, Theodore Shirley, Lawrence Lassiter, Bert Brooks, Leo McCoy Davis, Herman Pickett, Eddie Myart, Rabon Tarrant, Barron Morehead, Happy Johnson, John Haughton, James Johnson, Carl George, Eddie Hutchinson, James Porter, and Teddy Buckner. The participation of these performers in the final film has not been confirmed, however.
 
According to memos in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, some lyrics in the following songs were deemed unacceptable by the PCA: "That Ain't Right," "Yeah Man! [Linda Brown]," "Diga Diga Doo," "Geechy Joe," "Nobody," "That Man of Mine Is Dynamite," and "Good for Nothin' Joe." The last three songs were not heard in the final film. In "Diga Diga Doo," certain suggestive lyrics were changed, and in "Geechy Joe," the phrase "his jimson blues" was changed to "the lonesome blues." A few seconds of an instrumental, "Moppin' and Boppin'" by Fats Waller, Benny Carter and Ed Kirkeby, are heard at the beginning of the Memphis café sequence.
 
According to a Feb 1943 editorial in California Eagle, William Grant Still, who was a famous African-American composer, was hired as the film's music supervisor, but resigned "because [his] conscience would not let [him] accept money to help carry on a tradition directly opposed to the welfare of thirteen million people." In the editorial, Still accused the studio of labeling "Negro" music and dancing as cruder and rougher than the quality numbers that he was producing and that his musical arrangements were thus unrealistic. He also stated that one member of the crew declared that "'Negro bands didn't play that well.'" Still called on the black public to write letters to Twentieth Century-Fox and other major studios, pointing out the faults in their representations of black culture and society. Despite Still's protest, "Stormy Weather" was praised by the mainstream press for its music and dancing. Variety lauded its "all-colored cast" and the fact that it had not been "permitted to engage in any grotesque or theatrically 'typed' concepts of Negro behaviourism."
 
The Variety review also mentioned the "intra-trade concern" over the age difference between the film's romantic leads, Horne and Robinson, who was some forty years her senior, but noted that "the illusion comes off quite well." However, California Eagle reported on 8 Apr 1943 that a "highly indignant" Robinson was set to sue "several publications" for printing the story that Stormy Weather would be remade with another, presumably younger, male romantic lead.

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Photo taken on 4 February 2017 (© classic_film / Flickr)

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 bill robinson, dooley wilson, stormy weather, 1943, 1940s, forties, movie, film, musik, musical, american, usa, época, old, vintage, cinema, cine, hollywood, ephemeral, classic
 

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