If received today, the last day to return this item would be Oct 20.Learn more >
Vincente Minnelli's directorial debut, Cabin in the Sky (1943), has arrived on DVD in a beautiful transfer and a handsome, heavily loaded edition from Warner Home Video, which is impressive despite the uneven nature of its special features. The movie looks sensational, with a clean, sharp full-screen (1.33:1) image, filled with rich contrasts, all looking far better than it did in a 2003 theatrical screening in New York, or on the laserdisc release from the early '90s. The sound is quite good as well, with rich tone and full volume. And the movie has been given a very generous 30 chapters covering the whole plot and all of the musical numbers. The commentary track, however, is one of the most uneven and frustrating in the field. Two university scholars, Todd Boyd and Drew Casper, dominate the commentary, the former covering what amount to the sociological aspects of the movie -- and what he calls the racial politics of the movie -- while Casper dwells on Minnelli's approach to directing, and neither one provides remotely a full picture of what viewers should be looking for. Boyd has a condescending view of the film (and neither he nor Casper seems to want to mention the existence of the underlying stage work) that leaves him repeating the same caveat, concerning the racial sensibilities of the early '40s origins of the piece, ad nauseam, and ignoring the distinguished black supporting players -- including Rex Ingram and Kenneth Spencer. Casper, by comparison, is totally over-the-top in much of his praise, while spending much of his time explaining the obvious in terms of what is onscreen, with often awkward enthusiasm, and ignoring such factors as whether a particular musical number might be where it is because it was in the play in that very spot in the narrative; he does get to some substantive matters and insights, but it takes a while and a lot of effort and time to get there. Boyd keeps explaining how the movie contains most of the top black performers of the era, but, except for Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, and a handful of others, hardly ever mentions them by name, much less mentions their significance, except in a negative way, in terms of their perpetuating stereotypes. The remarks by Evangela Anderson and Eva Anderson, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson's widow and daughter, are more interesting, as they at least provide some material that hasn't been shown onscreen (described by Casper) or been condescendingly defined (by Boyd); but their appearances are also too few and far between, as they can only comment on the personal side of Anderson's work and life and their own experience of it, and their personal recollections of the other performers. Their reminiscences of Mantan Moreland and Rex Ingram are fascinating. (It's also a relief to know that this writer wasn't the only person who ever thought there was a close physical resemblance between Anderson and Moreland -- Anderson's own daughter once mistook Moreland for her father.) Fayard Nicholas, of the Nicholas Brothers, adds some good personal and professional reminiscences, but the best part of the commentary consists of the interview excerpts with Lena Horne -- her contribution is priceless as, in her own voice and all of the seriousness and directness that it carries, she describes her early experience of Hollywood. Would that she could have been approached a decade earlier than this, she might have added even more, and more directly, to what we hear on this release. The track is worth hearing, if you can get past the repetitive and superfluous elements in the commentary. The rest of the supplements consist of a "Pete Smith" short, Studio Visit, that includes Horne doing "Ain't It the Truth," an audio-only outtake of Louis Armstrong doing the same song, and the original trailer. The disc opens automatically to a multi-layer menu that's very easy to use.
Commentary by Evangela Anderson and Eva Anderson (wife and daughter of Eddie "Rochester" Anderson), Fayard Nicholas, Black Cultural Scholars Todd Boyd and Drew Casper, with interview excerpts of Lena Horne
Vintage Pete Smith Specialty short "Studio Visit"
Audio-only bonus: Louis Armstrong "Ain't It the Truth" outtake
Ethel WatersPetunia Jackson
Eddie "Rochester" AndersonLittle Joe Jackson
Lena HorneGeorgia Brown
Louis ArmstrongThe Trumpeter
Rex IngramLucius Lucifer, Jr.
Kenneth SpencerRev. Green, the General
Oscar PolkThe Deacon/Flatfoot
Mantan MorelandFirst Idea Man
Willie BestSecond Idea Man
Fletcher RiversThird Idea Man, Moke
Leon JamesFourth Idea Man, Poke
William Norton BaileyBill
Ruby DandridgeMrs. Kelso
Ernest WhitmanJim Henry
Lynn RootPlay Author
Duke EllingtonComposer (Music Score)
George BassmanComposer (Music Score)
George StollMusical Direction/Supervision
Harold ArlenComposer (Music Score)
Roger EdensComposer (Music Score)
Edwin B. WillisArt Director
Hugh HuntArt Director
Albert LewisAssociate Producer
Cedric GibbonsSet Designer
Leonid VasianSet Designer
Fantasy,Concerts Operas and Musicals
Heaven-Can-Wait Fantasies,Musical Fantasy,Studio-Era Black Cinema
I absolutely love this movie. It's filled with a super cast of late actors, singers, and musicians. It is also very thought provoking and funny at the same time.
I've owned this movie for a few years, but decided to purchase as a gift for my sister, who introduced it to me. She lost her copy, and I know it will put a huge smile on her face!
This is a very entertaining musical. Historically it is a gem because it is the first all-black musical made in America
I would recommend this to a friend
Rated 5 out of 5 stars
This is a classic, African American film. It's a favorite of mine and my mother's. She lost her VHS years ago, so I surprised her with this DVD. She loves it and watches it often. If you love classic films, then you must see this one.
I would recommend this to a friend
Rated 1 out of 5 stars
My Pastor was promoting this film. I ordered it at two separate times and EACH dvd I received was defective. Best Buy said they receive these from an outside vendor and had no control over the product shipped.