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An excellent story of love & family
davesmooth4 January 2002
An excellent movie. Superb acting by Mary Alice, Phillip M. Thomas, and a young Irene Cara. Tony King was very realistic in his role of Satin. This movie was one of the last predominately "all black" movies of the 70's and unlike the "blaxploitation" movies of that era, this movie actually had a plot, and was very well done. The movie soundtrack, sung by Aretha Franklin, was popular on the R&B charts at the time.
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An innocent, classic musical film that inspires!
ChristianIrizarry12 March 2003
I was 5 years old when I saw this musical movie while on vacation with my family in St. Thomas in 1977 and immediately fell in love with it. 27 years later, it is still an original inspiration for achieveing my goals that I have set to accomplish since that time!

This tragic story of a hard-core "behind the scenes" of the entertainment industry during the late 50's, "Sparkle" successfully portrays the struggle of three young sisters looking for their place in the sun. This story could simply become the biographical story of many young aspiring artists about what could materialize when things seem to happen too fast and role models are not available to lend a helping hand.

The phenomenal music written and composed by Aretha Franklin and Curtis Mayfield, the soundtrack carries the plot with every song. From being subjected to situations that almost leave no choice for strong long-term decision-making, to making the ultimate sacrifice in order to get ahead, all three young girls, Sparkle, Sister, and Delores, represent the different routes that one could take when you set out to achieve your ideal opportunity as your contribution to society.

This movie could have possibly spawned the ideas of creating "Dreamgirls" on Broadway, and Mariah Carey's "Glitter," 25 years later. As an original audience member of both productions, I have seen a lot of similarities in both stories to "Sparkle," as well as in "Saturday Night Fever," "Fame," "Flashdance," and the off-Broadway smash hit "Mama, I Want To Sing."
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Sparkle 76'
mary-mckinney329 November 2017
This movie is a true classic. Very well done for the times and way better than the re-done version done 2012.

The movie has that special something that I didn't get with the more recent version. It was also more realistic.

The music soundtrack is awesome!
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netnuevo12 July 2006
I watched this movie every chance I got, back in the Seventies when it came out on cable. It was my introduction to Harlem, which has fascinated me (and Bill Clinton) ever since. I was still very young, and the movie made a big impression on me. It was great to see a movie about other young girls growing up, trying to decide whom they wanted to be, and making some bad choices as well as good ones. I was dazzled by Lonette McKee's beauty, the great dresses they eventually got to wear, and the snappy dialogue. As someone being raised by a single mother as well, I could really identify with these girls and their lives. It's funny, these characters seem almost more real to me than Beyonce Knowles!
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shelld6827 October 2004
I saw this movie more than once and each time it seems to get better and better. The movie gets a hold of you from the beginning and if you enjoy a great storyline then it doesn't let you go so easily. Yes it may be a rags to riches story but, it's a good one if I might add. I love Irene Cara and the soft yet strong part she plays to "Sister" Lonette McKee and she herself delivers a great performance. Urban,Gritty,Ghetto story of teenagers in 1950's NY with huge dreams of making it big for a better life for themselves is Awesome!!!! Although they lose one or two of the group members along the way it all comes down to PERSERVEARANCE being key. I'll buy it and watch it again & again!
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Sparkle is quite a charming musical drama about three sisters forming a group
tavm12 February 2012
After several years of reading about this musical film, I finally watched Sparkle on Netflix Streaming. It's about a trio of Harlem sisters consisting of Lonette McKee (Sister), Dwan Smith (Dolores), and Irene Cara (Sparkle). Philip Michael Thomas also appears as Stix who's originally one of two male members of the group before becoming the groups' manager later on. And Mary Alice plays their mother Effie. The original songs are by Curtis Mayfield who was from Chicago of which I'm also a native of. The presentations of the performances are very good especially when Ms. McKee or later Ms. Cara are showcased in their close-ups. It was also a nice treat to see Don Bexley-best known to me and others as Bubba on "Sandford and Son"-as one of the M.C.'s. The drama was maybe a little too quick the way they were presented but overall, I very much liked Sparkle. P.S. When I read the obits of Whitney Houston yesterday and found out about her involvement in an upcoming remake with Jordin Sparks as the title character and Ms. Houston as the mother, my heart broke when I realized she wouldn't live to see the result which will be released this August. So it's in her memory I dedicate this review.
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A very warm & engaging, but clichéd rags-to-riches showbiz film
Woodyanders12 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A remarkable example of cinematic alchemy at work, with a trite'n'turgid lump of lead script (penned by numbingly mediocre Hollywood hack nonpareil Jole Schumacher, no less) being magically converted into a choice chunk of exquisitely gleaming 24-carat musical drama gold thanks to brisk direction, fresh, engaging performances, spot-on production values, a flavorsome recreation of 50's era New York, an infectiously effervescent roll-with-the-punches tone, and a truly wondrous rhythm and blues score by the great Curtis Mayfield.

The story, loosely based on the real life exploits of the Supremes, prosaically documents the arduous rags-to-riches climb of three bright-eyed, impoverished black teenage girl singers who desperately yearn to escape their ratty, unrewarding ghetto plight and make it big in the razzle-dazzle world of commercial R&B music. All the obvious pratfalls of instant wealth and success -- egos run destructively amok, drugs, corruption, fighting to retain your integrity, and so on -- are predictably paraded forth, but luckily the uniformly excellent work evident in the film's other departments almost completely cancels out Schumacher's flat, uninspired plotting. The first-rate acting helps out a lot. Irene Cara, Lonette McKee, and Dwan Smith are sensationally sexy, vibrant and appealing leads -- and great singers to boot. Comparably fine performances are also turned in by a charmingly boyish pre-"Miami Vice" Philip Michael Thomas as the group's patient, gentlemanly manager, Dorian Harewood as McKee's venal, aggressively amorous hound dog boyfriend, and perennial blaxploitation baddie Tony ("Hell Up in Harlem," "Bucktown") King as a dangerously seductive, smooth operating, stone cold nasty gangster. The tone dips and dovetails from funny and poignant to melancholy and blithesome without ever skipping a beat, deftly evolving into a glowing, uplifting ode to the human spirit's extraordinary ability to effectively surmount extremely difficult and intimidating odds.

Veteran editor Sam O'Stern acquits himself superbly in his directorial debut. Bruce Surtees' luminescent cinematography and Gordon Scott's expert editing are both flawless. O'Stern's firm grasp of period atmosphere, keen eye for tiny, but telling little details, and unerring sense of busy, unbroken pace are just as impressive. No fooling about Curtis Mayfield's impeccable soundtrack contributions, either. "Jump," "What Can I Do With This Feeling," "Givin' Up," "Take My Hand Precious Lord," "Lovin' You Baby," and "Look Into Your Heart" are all terrifically tuneful, soulful, almost unbelievably fantastic songs, with the sweetly sultry love jones number "Something He Can Feel," which was later covered by both Aretha Franklin and En Vogue, clearly copping top musical honors as the best-ever song in the entire movie. The net result of all these above cited outstanding attributes persuasively illustrates that sometimes it's not the screenplay so much as what's done with said script which in turn determines a film's overall sterling quality.
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Unpleasant and short on plot but well done, good music
vchimpanzee22 August 2006
In 1950s Harlem, Effie is raising three teenage daughters and working as a maid on Long Island, for people she calls by the name of a Nabisco product I won't use. Sparkle likes Stix, who sings with an all-male R & B group and wants to work in the recording industry. Sparkle and her sisters want to sing too, and eventually they join the group, which is called The Hearts. The emcee who first introduces them (some of you may know him as Fred Sanford's friend Bubba) messes that up.

Stix feels an all-girl group would work better. Sister and the Sisters turns out to be a big hit with local audiences. They have potential to hit the big time. But this means dealing with some unsavory characters. Levi is nice but he works for the charming but cruel Satin, who hits his jealous girlfriend in his first scene.

Whether the girl group will succeed depends a lot on how they adapt to the temptations provided by the show business world. Sister is the prettiest and apparently the oldest, and the lead singer. So then why is the movie called "Sparkle"? You'll find out.

This wasn't a feel-good movie by any means, though parts of it were nice. But most of the leading performers did a good job with their roles, even if more time was devoted to music than advancing the plot. And the musical performances were superior and explored a variety of styles from Doo-Wop to Motown to restaurant jazz and down-and-dirty jazz. We even had two scenes in church, one with upbeat old-time black gospel, and one with slow, passionate funeral music.

What makes the movie worthwhile is that it shows making it in show business can be next to impossible, with many obstacles requiring determination to overcome, along with the ability to resist what can end it all.
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Yet another rags-to-riches story...
moonspinner554 July 2001
Black sibling soul group in 1950's New York hits it big, but big sister Lonette McKee begins to spiral downward with booze and drugs, putting the group's reputation on the line. Well-made, but awfully thin little drama with a fine Curtis Mayfield musical score but not enough drama to involve a wide audience. Certainly begins well but quickly loses steam. McKee is the acting stand-out here, but her character's descent into the blues comes awfully fast. Result is a picture that plays its best cards too soon, leaving a lot of dead space in the second-half. Some enjoyable moments, evocative cinematography and art direction, but a lot of show-biz clichés. ** from ****
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sspsllc19 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The movie was actually a romantic drama based on three sisters who had desires to become a famous girl group. In their endeavors, the oldest sister meets a drug dealer and street hustler called Satin, whom Sister goes after because she believes he is the "big time" who will give her everything she ever thought she wanted out of life. Though he could be accused of killing her, he really kills only her spirit and will to live, after which she becomes a drug addict and ultimately dies from an overdose. The story isn't about the street life or the Italian mobster who tries to buy Stix off, then threatens him, it's about how love can overcome even the worst tragedies in life as portrayed in song and style and the character that was the life in the times for young women trying to be "discovered" back then.
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Low-Budget, Pre-"Dreamgirls" Curio Has Some Good Moments and Mayfield's Music...But It's Not Nearly Enough
EUyeshima6 January 2007
Just in time to capitalize on the long-awaited movie version of "Dreamgirls" is the DVD release of this semi-forgotten 1976 musical melodrama that also takes the rise of the Supremes as its inspiration. Released five years before the Broadway opening of "Dreamgirls" and partially set in the same period, it has a predominantly black cast and a story revolving around an up-and-coming girl group, and that's where the resemblance basically ends. Written by Joel Schumacher well before he became a big-league director of mainstream studio product ("Batman Forever", "The Phantom of the Opera"), this movie seems grittier on the surface. True to form, however, Schumacher weakens the storyline and character development by injecting an abundance of clichés and eye-rolling one-liners. With little affinity for staging musical numbers, Sam O'Steen, a highly regarded film editor but neophyte director, helms the production like a low-budget TV-movie with a frustratingly episodic structure.

The story follows three Harlem sisters - sexy Sister, self-righteous Delores and sweet Sparkle - as they sing in the church choir, meet smooth-talking but well-intentioned boys Stix and Levi, and then find their first taste of success as a singing group - first as a sweater-wearing quintet called the Hearts and then as a glitzy trio known as Sister and the Sisters. But naturally there are problems beyond the silly name for the group - Sister gets involved with nasty drug dealer Satin Struthers who beats her and turns her into a cocaine junkie; Levi goes to prison for getting caught in a drug pick-up for Satin; Stix gets frustrated by failure and unwisely turns to some Jewish mobsters for financial help; Delores just gets plain fed up; and poor little Sparkle has to decide what kind of future she wants. A big plus is that R&B great Curtis Mayfield wrote the atmospheric songs, some catchy and one, "Look Into Your Heart", a real winner.

The solid cast does its best under the contrived circumstances. Lonette McKee's valiant attempt to make Sister a tragic figure is undercut by some of the ham-fisted plot turns, including a sad Billie Holliday-like turn at the mike. Before they hit it big on primetime TV, Philip Michael Thomas and Dorian Harewood portray Stix and Levi with boyish vitality if not much credibility. The best work comes from Mary Alice in a relatively silent turn as the girls' patient mother and a pre-"Fame" Irene Cara who effortlessly exudes sincerity in the title role (though her costumer and hair stylist should be shot for the hideous look she achieves in the final scene). The DVD just comes with the original theatrical trailer complete with an unctuous voice-over by DJ Casey Kasem and a bonus CD of five of the film's songs performed not by the original cast but by Aretha Franklin off her 1976 recording of the soundtrack. It's not a terrible movie, just an interesting if lacking curio that happens to cover the same ground as "Dreamgirls".
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Lonette McKee Makes Sparkle
momorguci12 March 2006
Standard rise to fame tale that has a few high points. Number one, Lonette McKee as Sister who gives a stunning, star making performance. The fact that she never became a huge sensation after this is beyond me. Sadly, she is a supporting character and we are forced to focus on Irena Carter's bland character, Sparkle, whose rise to fame is easy, boring, and unconvincing. However, whenever the girls go on stage and perform, the movie comes back to life. The original music by Curis Mayfield must be praised. The copy I saw was a very old VHS tape. The picture quality was pretty low, as well as the production values I'm guessing. All in all, its worth a gander.
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A Supremes-like Storyline
bokiluis1 April 2017
With the success of "Dreamgirls" on Broadway and film, and several other films with similar story lines, one wonders if there will ever be an actual bio-film of the real Supremes? To the embittered review by "Husky Miller"(his handle kind of tells you something of his personality), "Sparkle" is not supposed to be some sort of definitive drama. It is entertainment. Unfortunately, until Berry Gordy/Motown Film Productions began making movies like the multi-nominated "Lady Sings the Blues", Hollywood was very conservative in green lighting films targeted first to the black community. The early 70s saw a mishmash of so-called "black exploitation" movies. Hollywood understood there's an audience of moviegoers that were underserved. But just like "slum lord housing", the movies being made were low budget trash that had extremely limited endurance. Just like Mr. Gordy upgraded the image of black artists and entertainment with global appealing stars like The Supremes (hence Diana Ross), The Temptations. The Jackson 5, Motown films symbolized works with crossover appeal. "Lady Sings the Blues", "Mahogany", "The Wiz", "Bingo Long and the Travelling Allstars" endures nearly a half century later and are still seen on cable. It's no coincidence that Motown gave the world, a Mount Rushmore-like of artists from the aforementioned The Supremes, The Temptations, The Jackson 5, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson for instance. So "Sparkle" is by no means some great work of art, but, it is a labor of love that inspired an update in 2012 by the late, great Whitney Houston, En Vogue even turned one of the songs "Something He Can Feel" into a hit again in the 90s. So Mr. Miller, lighten up and try and find the innocence and joy in an entertaining film.
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Predictable Story but Music and Performances Make It Worth Watching
Michael_Elliott17 August 2012
Sparkle (1976)

*** (out of 4)

Set in Brooklyn during the 1950s, the story revolves around Sparkle (Irene Cara), a talented teenager who joins a band with her two sisters but things start to unravel when the older sister gets involved with drugs. Based on the story of The Supremes, SPARKLE is a pretty entertaining gem that manages to get you caught up in the story even though there's no question it's all rather predictable and at times too cute for its own good. I think the most attractive thing the film has going for it are the songs composed by Curtis Mayfield. The songs really capture the mood and spirit of R&B during this period and while none of the songs can compare to the real hits of the day, I think each of them are good enough to at least help draw you into the story. Another major plus is the performance of Cara who easily steals the film. From the very first time you see Cara she just grabs you up and takes you along on this journey. Another good performance comes from Philip Michael Thomas as the man in her life trying to make her see how special of a talent she has. Lonette McKee is also good as the older sister who gets mixed up in the drugs. Director Sam O'Steen does a very good job with the details of the era and I thought he managed to make the scenery very realistic. You really do feel as if you're in the 1950s and that certainly helps the movie. Joel Schumacher wrote the screenplay and does a pretty nice job with the story even though there's no doubt that it's a tad bit too simple and I'd also argue that it could have avoided the blaxploitation notion that all white people are evil and just out to do bad things (the money lenders in this film). Still, SPARKLE is a good little musical that's worth seeing and especially if you enjoy the music of the period.
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Gritty, real life cautionary tale.
CriticsVoiceVideo25 February 2021
Irene Cara gives a heartbreaking and uplifting performance as Sparkle. Great cast all around. Not the best cinematography, but I think it adds grit and authenticity to the piece. A must watch. Fantastic musical score by Curtis Mayfield. Absolute classic.
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Timeless, Accurate, Heartbreaking
rhyllann28 November 2019
This movie would be accurate if it had a revamp every 10yrs or less. When people realize how it's their OWN that keeps each other down, maybe the same old sad sickening story would change...and instead of being the rarity that breaks free, it could be something natural. No sadder more pathetic existence than when one has no idea who is the real enemy is.

I think this movie is fantastic in all its twisted pain. Fantastic talent from the usual players who never seem to thank the right people in their DNA.
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Sparkle a Little Dull but Still Has Shine
view_and_review17 September 2018
It was hard to watch this movie without a catalogue of other movies going through my head. Granted, this movie was made before the movies I was thinking of-- "What's Love Got to Do With It," "The Five Heartbeats," "Ray," and others--but I saw similar threads in them all. It seems, fictitious or not, every music story has a rise to fame, drug use by someone, and some type of tragedy. I probably view Sparkle through a different prism but it's hard for me to do that. It was a little fast paced in its build up but OK.
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valstone5218 August 2018
I loved beyond original movie. Great actors and really good music. I would like the know who sang the songs. I'm not talking about the aretha Franklin soundtrack. Who actually sang the songs in the movie.
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Sparkle doesn't shine, it blows!
HuskyMiller12 August 2006
This is not a good movie. It's disjointed, all the acting is bad, and has a lame story you've seen a thousand times done much better else where. Not to mention you can see every plot point coming from a mile away. Worst of all, no one bothered to tell Lonette Mckee she can't sing. But who cares, she's sooooo damn good looking. But I digress, nothing new here. Bottom-line, hot girl group gets taken advantage of, some one gets hooked on drugs, someone gets hooked on a guy, some one gets the hell out, and then the horrible stuff happens. Surprise, surprise. Welcome to the music business. I can't believe so many people out there think this is a good movie. So many of you seem to want to use a sliding scale when it comes to grading Black Movies. I don't play that! If you want to support these films by going to see them - great! If you enjoyed it - super! To each his own. But don't try to tell me it was good. Pleeeease! I wish colored folks would not fawn over these kind of movies just because they feature black actors. Wanna see a good African-American movie? See Love Jones. Ray. Or The Color Purple. Those would be great movies no matter what the color of the actors skin. Why? Because they told compelling stories with great acting, that made you feel something long after you left the theater. Just because it's our experience does not automatically make it a good film. It's only good -- when it's good. Period.
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Sparkle - DVD
Moore321413 January 2007
Sparkle is an African-American cult classic film. It has been cherished by millions in the African-American community for years. How dare Warner Bros. disgrace the legacy of this film? Why is the sound not in 5.1 Dolby Surround? Why did they include the soundtrack as a bonus? We the fans have had this soundtrack since 1976. Where are the Bonus Features? Cast interviews, restored footage from the original uncut unedited version, commentary from the director Sam O'Steen, or Joel Schumacher???

This is a travesty!

Please e-mail Mr. Jeff Baker, Senior VP&GM at Warner Bros. ( and let him know how disappointed we are with this Sparkle DVD.

Thank you.
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About Time, But?
jenks10939 January 2007
About time they released this movie on DVD. I know some say WB rush the release of this movie because of The Dreamgirls movie. But, how can you rush the release of a movie that's been in you catalog since 1976.

I'm very disappointed with the DVD release of this movie, no special feature, no 5.1 DD sound. come on WB, you can do much better then this. The audio and picture quality on this movie needs some serious help.

Seem WB didn't place as much time and attention to this movie because it is a black movie and my have okay sales. They could have kept the CD which by the way dose not have all the songs the original CD has.

Would I recommend this DVD for purchase. Yes, because it is a classic film. But WB need to go add some more special feature. Take notes from other group movies, The Five Heatbeats, or The Temptation were you may view just the performance, and the sound on both are much, much, much better than this DVD.
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Comment to the one below!!! Read!!!!
mcj3148216 September 2007
First of all, I think the below comment is unworthy for a site like this. Obviously you have no taste and you don't respect the taste of others. Not to give you a history lesson but I think it needs to be done. Black actors out there are just, if not more, successful as others. If you are not a part of the "Black" race you cannot understand the quality, creativeness, and vibrant of old movies such as "Sparkle" and "Mahogany" and "Cooley High." Since unfortunately you are not Black, you do not have the pleasure of feeling what we feel when we watch these classics, so therefore you need to keep your freaking mouth shut and just stick to your non-dancing race. Thanks.
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