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Little Richard
Little Richard
Actors: Leon, Jenifer Lewis, Carl Lumbly, Tamala Jones, Mel Jackson
Director: Robert Townsend
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Television
NR     2002     2hr 0min

The Richard Penniman (better known as Little Richard) depicted in this 2000 film was a flamboyant, larger-than-life character, not to mention a vital figure in pop music history--perhaps even "the architect of rock & roll,...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Leon, Jenifer Lewis, Carl Lumbly, Tamala Jones, Mel Jackson
Director: Robert Townsend
Creators: Edward J. Pei, Iain Paterson, J. Todd Harris, John Davis, Little Richard, Bill Kerby, Daniel Taplitz
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Television
Sub-Genres: Drama, Jackson, Michael, All Made-for-TV Movies
Studio: Live / Artisan
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 10/22/2002
Original Release Date: 02/20/2000
Theatrical Release Date: 02/20/2000
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 2hr 0min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 16
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A Moving Tribute to a Living Legend!!
B. Robyn Donison | Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan Canada | 10/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Little Richard Story is a credible account of the man who, more than any other individual artist, erased the word "race-music" and created popular music. Although only a small part of his life and 55 year (and still counting) career was highlighted, the DVD really captures the essence of the man - the battle between his faith in the Lord and the temptations of the world, and the development of the most important musical art form of the twentieth century - rock music. Leon is amazing in the title role, bringing to the screen the attractive, sensual black musician with the raspy, force-of-nature voice, that racist parents in America fought so hard (and so unsuccessfully) to keep from their children's senses. If you love rock, r&b or rap, and are interested in the roots of the music (the black church), this DVD is a must to add to your collection."
Enough With The Pancake 31!
B. Robyn Donison | 12/20/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Little Richard had been talking about a movie of his life as far back as 1962. Around the time of his critically acclaimed *book* biography, "The Life & Times of Little Richard" (Charles White, Crown, New York), he mentioned Michael Jackson, Prince, or Eddie Murphy as his celluloid self. About fifteen years later Leon got the job. I'm not familiar with the gentleman's work, but I strongly believe that he did the best possible job of all. Murphy would have been great if the story took us into the late '60s/early '70s, but the younger actor managed to capture the "soul" of the early Penniman, as he achieved worldwide fame on his first major record release, and nearly saw it taken away, or at least tarnished by unfair competition and by a perfectly legal but unfair recording contract. And by his own offstage indulgence. By the way, if you look at the 45 rpm picture cover of LR's "Ooh! My Soul"/"True, Fine Mama" you'd think for a second that it was this actor. The resemblance actually does help here.
In some ways we can compare Richard's biopic with Jerry Lee Lewis' biopic. They both disappointed the deep fan, the historian, but served the purpose of introducing a Legend to those who knew very little about them. The movies got alot of folks interested. "Little Richard" wins out by the strength of the acting.
Those who read the Charles White book need to (almost) forget the book while they watch the movie. There's a large amount of distortion and exaggeration. There's a certain amount of invention: "By The Light of the Silvery Moon" was his first RCA release, complete with *1956* arrangement? - okay...Tutti Frutti" was recorded in 1953? - it may have been first *performed* in 1953, but it sure wasn't recorded that year! (In record business years, *two* years is like two lifetimes!) The lady companion he found after his fame was named...Lucille? More than one source mention a free-spirit named Lee Angel.
Ofcourse most musical biographies exaggerate to make the "story" work. Too bad, however, that in this case we have an incredibly influential musical genius portrayed as an incredibly influential gender-bending eccentric who sent the kids into orbit. How about a minute or two on how he changed the way music sounded and the way musicians performed? In short, the movie is too image conscious.
Another concern is in the portrayal of two Richard contemporaries, Sam Cooke and Pat Boone. Cooke, who was a very close friend of Richard and who wrote for him in the early '60s, for some reason gets a disparaging comment in the dialogue, and Boone, the good Country ballad singer/poor Rock and Roll singer who ofcourse recorded third-rate covers of LR's first two classics, is shown in a crass split-screen: the great "Long Tall Sally" versus the terrible "cover version" as Pat struggles with the intricacies of the composition at a studio mike.
Altogether the real Little Richard did a fine job as Executive Producer. Just like in his recording career, whenever he took the reins as Producer, or Co-Producer, we got something special.
Strangely, however, just as critics and fans have neglected his most important contributions over the years, the Architect himself seems to have gotten caught up in the same confusion.
[Longtime fans and historians note that the soundtrack recording of "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" and an unidentified folk/work song are *new*]."
Je suis le jeune le plus fou de little richard
cedrick | val des bois | 12/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"je suis un garcon qui adord chanter et dancer du little richard jai deja vus votre films et je le recherche a nouveau pour pouvouir chanter et rocker comme lui jàime sa voie car il chantais,criais et pouvais faire vibrer des coeur comme le miens MERCI cedrick chapman un veritable fan"
Introduction to "The Originator"
The Fancy One | Westchester County, NY | 05/23/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I almost forgot about this Robert Townsend-directed movie until I saw it on television the other night. What I do remember is that it was a made for TV movie that aired in 2000, and I did see it then. Not knowing much about Little Richard's background other than his flamboyant stage act and his classic records, I thought that this was a great introduction to the life of a man whom, in my opinion, never really got the credit he deserved being a pioneer of rock 'n roll. Those honors always seem to go to other acts of the day (Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pat Boone - please give us a break!), when the REAL pioneers of the genre are mostly ignored or have been reduced to being mere footnotes in rock 'n roll history. Those who are die-hard fans of Richard and his music might find this film to be lacking in many ways, but for those who are just getting familiar with this man's life and his music, this is a good place to begin their research.

Leon is an exceptional actor who seems to portray a lot of musical figures on film, and very well, I might add. Who can forget his dynamic (and probably most well known) performance as the former Temptation David Ruffin in the still popular "The Temptations" mini-series, or as J.T. Matthews in the early 1990's feature film "The Five Heartbeats"? (I've even seen him play Jackie Wilson in another movie mini-series, however, he had a small role in that film.) As Little Richard Penniman, Leon engrosses himself in his subject and although the film is not entirely factual, it piques your interest enough to make you want to seek out the real story of his life. I know, after seeing it yet again, I want to learn more!

My only complaint is that two hours (TV running time, anyway) was hardly enough time to capture the story of this man - this certainly deserved the mini-series treatment. It was like viewing Richard's career and personal life on fast forward - you didn't get the chance to learn whom his main influences were, or understand why he made some of the decisions he did because the film seemed rushed, especially during the last half hour. However, it is an enjoyable movie and definitely worth watching. It needs to be made available again - any fan of rock 'n roll musical bios will want to add this to their collection."