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In the mid-1980s, three women (each with an attorney) arrive at the office of New York entertainment manager Morris Levy. One is a singer from Los Angeles, formerly of the Platters; one is a petty thief from Philadelphia; one teaches high school in a small Georgia town. Each claims to be the widow of long-dead doo-wop singer-songwriter Frankie Lyman, and each wants years of royalties due to his estate, money Levy has never shared. During an ensuing civil trial, flashbacks tell the story of each one's life with Lyman, a boyish, high-pitched, dynamic performer, lost to heroin. Slowly, the three widows come together and establish their own bond. Written by
Elizabeth Waters testified in court that she first met Frankie in 1961, but in the flashback to their first meeting, the music playing on the department store stereo is "Walk On The Wild Side", not released in 1962. See more »
That was the last time I saw him... alive. About a week later, Frankie's brother called to tell me that Frankie had overdosed.
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Other commentators seem to feel this is, or should have been, a movie about the life of Frankie Lyman. However, as the title indicates, it is really about three women who fell in love ... with a guy named Frankie Lyman. As the movie brings home fairly early, there is not much about Frankie to love. He is portrayed as a shallow, self-centered fool, with as little understanding of the music business as of the women he scams into being his wives.
Did Frankie have raw talent? Of course he did. Did Frankie do anything to develop this raw talent into an enduring musical career? No evidence of that. So much for Frankie. Larenz Tate plays him fairly well on stage, and rather flat off stage. We are not given a clue as to what the attraction may have been.
And, since two of the women were relatively unaware of his celebrity status when they were first taken with him, and the third had a celebrity status of her own, we expect the movie to answer the title question. The women do not entirely succeed in this, but they are terrifically watchable while they try.
Halle Berry is great as Zola Taylor, singer with the Platters. Viveca Fox is almost as good as the home girl who turns hooker to support Frankie, and Lela Rachon is perfect as the goodie-two-shoes last wife, a God-fearing and educated working woman.
The music scenes are good, and the courtroom scenes are outrageously unrealistic.
This would have been a better movie if they had not specifically based the story on Lyman, but only alluded to him. In this manner, the Hollywoodization of the story would have been less noticeable. Unfortunately, realizing that such a course would inevitably preclude using the Lyman hits, they chose to make this a triography of the wives, and allow them to play off Tate's weak Lyman persona.
All in all, a good couple of hours of enjoyment that is not too compelling. When it was over, we found ourselves asking, "Why DID these three fools fall in love?"
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