Lenny/Bojangles [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Actor and dancer Gregory Hines served as both executive producer and star for this biographical drama that chronicles the life of legendary entertainer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. In 1916, Robinson was a successful vaudeville performer and considered the finest tap dancer of his generation when he met Fannie (Kimberly Elise), a college student nearly two decades his junior. Even though Robinson was already married, he quickly fell in love with Fannie, and in time she was swept off her feet by the charismatic dancer and became his second wife. Fannie was one of the first people to encourage Robinson to stop performing in blackface (common for African-American vaudeville performers of the time), and in the 1930s, she and manager Marty Forkins (Peter Riegert) persuaded Bill to move to Hollywood and find work in the movies. While roles for black actors in Hollywood were severely limited at the time, Robinson managed to become a recognized film star, headlining the musical Stormy Weather and appearing in a number of pictures with child star Shirley Temple. But while Robinson's film work helped make him the best-known black performer in America, his frequent roles as domestic servants did little to earn him respect among his own people, and he was often seen as an "Uncle Tom" for his aggressively cheerful on-stage demeanor. And while Robinson was confronted with the less fortunate consequences of fame, he and Fannie had to deal with his growing addiction to gambling, which threatened to leave the highest-paid black man in America flat broke. Bojangles also features Savion Glover and Maria Ricossa; the film was produced for the Showtime premium cable network, where it first aired on February 4, 2001. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Adapted by Julian Barry from his own Broadway play, Lenny manages to be both brutally frank and highly romanticized in detailing the short life and career of influential, controversial stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce. The chronology hops, skips and jumps between Lenny (Dustin Hoffman) in his prime and the burned-out, strung-out performer who, in the twilight of his life, used his nightclub act to pour out his personal frustrations at great, boring length. We watch as up-and-coming comic Bruce courts his "Shiksa goddess," a stripper named Honey (Valerie Perrine). With family responsibilities, Lenny is encouraged to do a "safe," conformist act, but he can't do it. Constantly in trouble for flouting obscenity laws, Lenny develops a near-messianic complex, which fuels both his comedy genius and his talent for self-destruction. Worn out by a lifetime of tilting at Establishment windmills, Lenny Bruce died of a drug overdose in 1966. Director Bob Fosse chose to film Lenny in black-and-white, giving the film the texture of a documentary. Though a film as verbally graphic as Lenny could not have been made when the real Lenny Bruce was alive, audiences in 1974 responded, to the tune of an $11 million gross. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Gregory Hines
    Gregory Hines - Bill "Bojangles" Robinson
  • Peter Riegert
    Peter Riegert - Marty Forkins
  • Kimberly Elise
    Kimberly Elise - Fannie
  • Maria Ricossa
    Maria Ricossa - Rae
  • Savion Glover
    Savion Glover - Newcomer
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