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Nina Mae McKinney, I have to say is the greatest, its ashame she's been forgotten, she was before Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge, but because she wouldn't kiss anyone's butt or play maids or stereotype roles she didn't last long in Hollywood, she was a tough woman. She did great in Hallelujah, the best first talkie all black musical. She does wonderful in this short, I went through hell finding and collecting these black short musicals of that 30s and 40s era but their worth it. This short film is great. Nina Mae looks beautiful and sings a great low-down song with scat. I have it and its beautiful, and I watch it over and over again, its great better over and over again, the whole cast Amanda Randolph and the WashBoard Serenaders. You'll love it, Turner Classic Movies may show it, but you have to catch it, because they have no schedule for shorts.
Glamorous Harlem fashions coincide with great music and that particular
Jazz Age buzz that you don't find anywhere else in this short about a
1930s radio station!
Nina Mae McKinney shines with a great vocal and acting performance, and The Nicolas Brothers astound with their amazing and precocious dancing. In fact, all the performers in this short are extremely talented, and are very under-acknowledged.
If you are want to see this short, buy the DVD of King Vidor's 'Hallelujah' (available from Amazon). 'The Black Network' is included as an extra on the 'Hallelujah' DVD, along with another short that Nina Mae McKinney appeared in, 'Pie Pie Blackbird', which is not quite as good as this one.
The setting is the Black Radio Network where the sponsor has a successful show because of the lovely Nina Mae McKinney has all the Jazz Baby qualities and she and her boyfriend make the show a hit. But the sponsor's wife is jealous and bumps the young beauty off the air and ruins the show. The young Nicholas brothers drop by to sing and dance and sell a winning numbers ticket which in the end puts our pretty couple on Sugar Hill! Another number, some scat singing and those sexy brown eyes of Nina's make this another short to be savored again and again. If you can find it. you will be enchanted.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is another musical short from Warner Bros.-Vitaphone that showcases Nina Mae McKinney and the Nicholas Brothers. In this one, Harold and Fayard sing as well as dance and they do it well. Ms. McKinney has one number before the sponsor's wife (Amanda Randolph) forces herself on the air and asks in song, "What is Wrong with Me?" before she decides there's nothing wrong with her. Of course, her face and attitude tells us something different! There's also a forgotten musical group called the Washboard Serenaders that has one member playing the kazoo behind a glass that must have amazed the theatrical audience back then. Another forgotten singer named Emmett 'Babe' Wallace sings at the end with him and Nina in their Sunday best as the short ends happily. Well, except for Amanda who's stuck watching from a window. While many of the musical numbers are cut to many scenes of contrived plot devices, The Black Network is still entertaining enough for me to recommend it.
This is one of the DVD extras included with "Hallelujah". And, like
"Hallelujah", the films feature all-black casts. Considering that these
films were made by mainstream Hollywood studios (MGM and Warner
Brothers), seeing such films today might surprise audiences. They also
serve as nice historical records of this bygone era.
This film is set at a fictional black-run radio station and consists of various musical acts of the day. Some are amazing and great when seen today--such as the Nicholas Brothers (tap dancers on a radio show?!) and Nina Mae McKinney (who also starred in "Hallelujah") and some are not so hot (like the opening number and one that was supposed to be bad--the sponsor's wife!). My favorite was the band's scat version of "Ochi Chornya (Dark Eyes)"--it really hummed and was better than other versions I've heard--speeding it up helped and the band was amazing.
So is this great viewing? Probably not for the average viewer. But for historical reasons or if you like 1930s music, this might be right up your alley.
By the way, you might find reading McKinney's biography on IMDb. It's incredibly sad but interesting as well when you read about how this talented lady was almost totally forgotten when she died a very early death.
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