Mahogany (1975)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.  

USA, 1975.  Motown Productions, Nikor Productions, Paramount Pictures.  Story by Toni Amber, Screenplay by John Byrum.  Cinematography by David Watkin.  Produced by Jack Ballard, Rob Cohen.  Music by Michael MasserProduction Design by Aurelio Crugnola, Leon Erickson.  Costume Design by Diana Ross.  Film Editing by Peter Zinner

Diana Ross follows her triumph as Billie Holliday with this glamorous but empty melodrama about a girl pursuing her dreams. She works as secretary to the manager of a fancy Chicago department store, then goes home every night to her rough south side neighbourhood where an ambitious local politician () seeks to win her heart while saving his town. An opportunity as a model with an eccentric photographer (Anthony Perkins) sees her achieve fame, leave Williams behind and eventually fulfill her goal to become a celebrated designer in her own right, but then she wonders what it all means when she considers what she has given up to get there.  It’s the stuff of many a melodrama, and Ross gives it everything she’s got, even designing the fabulous gowns that her character sells.  To have something so predictable also play so much on the surface makes this one a slog to get through, and it doesn’t make up for its flimsiness by being particularly revelatory or perceptive about the modeling or fashion world (though her wardrobe is terrific).  The main character’s efforts as a designer are only minimally highlighted while most of the film is an excuse for the scenes of glamorous photo shoots.

Academy Award NominationBest Original Song (“Do You Know Where You’re Going To”)

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