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Been Rich All My Life (2006)

Five sassy, tap dancing women aged 84 - 96. Meet the "Silver Belles".


(as Heather Lyn MacDonald)

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Credited cast:
Marion Coles ...
Elaine Ellis ...
Cleo Hayes ...
Fay Ray ...
Berte Lou Wood ...


They are the "Silver Belles," five women aged 84 to 96. They first met in the 1930's as chorus dancers at the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater where they worked 15 hour days, rehearsing a new show every week. In their heyday they performed with legendary band leaders like Cab Calloway, Jimmie Lunceford and Duke Ellington. When the big band era ended, and with it the need for show dancers, they all went into other work. In 1985 they put their tap shoes back on, and are still performing regularly. But in one week, Cleo tumbles down the subway stairs and breaks her knee and arm, Marion gets a pacemaker, and Bertye is taken to the hospital. Is this the end of the Silver Belles? Written by Signy

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Release Date:

4 January 2006 (USA)  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$8,252 (USA) (21 July 2006)


$33,745 (USA) (29 September 2006)

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User Reviews

Truly inspiring...a must see for all professional hoofers
24 December 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This documentary follows the lives of the Silver Bells, ladies aged 84-96 who were Harlem showgirls in the heyday of 1930's clubs. It follows how they formed a tap troupe and still perform in New York. They follow them as they travel to their rehearsals and performances and interview them in their homes.

It is this independence that stands out most prominently in this movie. Watching them in their advanced ages maneuvering through the crowded streets they've lived on for so long. It makes a younger viewer tired as one of the ladies shows the route she has to take, which includes multiple trains and buses to get to rehearsal one way.

During the rehearsals you get to see the feisty side of some of these ladies and the perfectionism that they have for their craft. Some still teach the younger dancers attempting to make sure the art of tap is not lost. There are also photos and video clips of the clubs and performers from days gone by interspersed throughout. Looking at all the autographed pictures they possess and how many of the performers they worked with really makes you appreciate their clear memory. They definitely have stories to tell.

They told stories of how they were founding members of the American Guild of Variety Artists. This is a national union that began during the strike of showgirls in Harlem. So many benefit from this union but hardly anyone knows how it all began; that a handful of Black showgirls in Harlem said enough, we deserve better treatment. They also told stories about their performances abroad; riding steamer ships to faraway lands. How dance and the jazz culture took them to places they would never have had the opportunity to see.

Being that all of these women are older necessarily some physical limitations are evident. The most poignant part of the documentary is the possibility of injury. At their age some injures can be fatal. Even with that being the case these women keep performing. They keep the music playing, audiences smiling and hands clapping.

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