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Mr. Soul! (2018)

Before Oprah, before Arsenio, there was Mr. SOUL. Ellis Haizlip ensures the Revolution will be televised with "SOUL!," America's first "Black Tonight Show." From 1968 to 1973, the ... See full summary »


Melissa Haizlip, Sam Pollard (co-director) (as Samuel D. Pollard)


Melissa Haizlip
13 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »




Credited cast:
Sidney Poitier ... Self (archive footage)
Blair Underwood ... Narration (voice)
Anna Maria Horsford ... Self (archive footage)
Harry Belafonte ... Self
Patti LaBelle ... Self (archive footage)
Stevie Wonder ... Self (archive footage)
Maya Angelou ... Self (archive footage)
Quest Love ... Self (as Questlove Gomez)
Gladys Knight ... Self (archive footage)
Bill Withers ... Self (archive footage)
Novella Nelson ... Self
Stan Lathan ... Self
James Baldwin ... Self (archive footage)
Al Green ... Self (archive footage)
Carmen De Lavallade ... Self


Before Oprah, before Arsenio, there was Mr. SOUL. Ellis Haizlip ensures the Revolution will be televised with "SOUL!," America's first "Black Tonight Show." From 1968 to 1973, the public-television variety show SOUL!, guided by the enigmatic producer and host Ellis Haizlip, offered an unfiltered, uncompromising celebration of Black literature, poetry, music, and politics-voices that had few other options for national exposure, and, as a result, found the program an improbable place to call home. The series was among the first to provide expanded images of African Americans on television, shifting the gaze from inner-city poverty and violence to the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement. With participants' recollections and illuminating archival clips, Mr. SOUL. captures a critical moment in culture whose impact continues to resonate, and an unsung hero whose voice we need now more than ever, to restore the SOUL of a nation. Written by Melissa Haizlip

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Before Oprah - before Arsenio - there was Mr. SOUL! Ellis Haizlip makes television broadcast history with SOUL!, America's first "black Tonight Show."




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Did You Know?


Ellis Haizlip was born in Washington, DC on September 21, 1929, where he attended Dunbar High School. In Europe during the 1950s, Ellis Haizlip produced plays by his friend James Baldwin, and concert tours for Marlene Dietrich. SOUL! was conceived in 1968 as the first "black Tonight Show." Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles appeared on the very first episode of SOUL! on Sept. 12, 1968. SOUL! was the creation of Ellis B. Haizlip, at the time the only African-American producer at WNET Channel 13, which was then called NET (National Educational Television). Haizlip, along with many emerging and musicians, hosted the show, which aired 130 episodes on Thursday nights out of New York from 1968 to 1973. Ellis Haizlip was instrumental in launching the careers of Anna Maria Horsford, Ashford & Simpson and many African American icons of the twentieth century. Arsenio Hall appeared on the SOUL! show on April 22, 1971. He was fifteen-years-old, performing magic tricks. In 1979, Ellis Haizlip produced Michael Jackson's 21st birthday party at Studio 54. December 6, 1988 was proclaimed Ellis Haizlip Day by the President of the Borough of Manhattan. In 1995, the Ellis B. Haizlip Papers were acquired by the National African American Museum Project, curated by Deb Willis for the Anacostia Community Museum Archives of the Smithsonian Institution. Ellis Haizlip's favorite quote: "It's been beautiful!' See more »

User Reviews

Entertaining and Touching
25 August 2020 | by rannynmSee all my reviews

The documentary Mr. Soul! is entertaining and touching! It is remarkably interesting and makes you want to research more about Ellis Haizlip. He made a huge difference in the way African Americans were shown on television by creating his own show called "SOUL!. This movie focuses on African American music, dance and literature and how Mr. Haizlip used his program to show Black talent in positive ways.

Mr. Soul! is a movie about Ellis Haizlip's life as the creator, co-host and producer of an TV show featuring Black performers called SOUL!. It tells the story of Haizlip, the show, and the talent he showcased. You hear about his life and accomplishments from the performers he had on SOUL! and from his friends. You also see different footage from SOUL!, and pictures from Haizlip's personal life. The documentary also demonstrates how Haizlip went from being the producer of the show to also hosting it.

The main character is Ellis Haizlip. I love how kind he was and how he always made SOUL! fun for everyone. He gave so many different people opportunities to show off their talents on SOUL!. The director, Melissa Haizlip, is a talented storyteller. She uses different elements such as a narrator (Blair Underwood), videos from SOUL!, interviews from the shows' guests, and testimonies from his friends to tell Mr. Haizlip's incredible story. The movie includes great music from different Black culture genres such as Gospel and R&B. There are incredible dance numbers and bands shown that were also on the show. The film has some funny parts, and it will take you through different emotions, which makes it more interesting. I was incredibly surprised to learn that Mr. Haizlip was a television host before Oprah Winfrey and that he was a musician before he became a TV host.

The message of this film is that anything is possible and that sometimes you have to take risks to get where you want to be in life. For example, when Mr. Haizlip's friend decided not to host the show anymore, Mr. Haizlip took a risk and became the host and made history. Parents might need to look out for the use of the "N-word" in the beginning in a short video clip from one of the show's acts and mentions of suicide.

I rate Mr. Soul! 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids 13 to 18. Adults will love it as well! Reviewed by Tiana S., KIDS FIRST

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Release Date:

22 April 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mr. Soul! See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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