Hollywood's first all-black film since The Green Pastures tells the vibrant fable of rascally Little Joe, torn between the love of his good wife Petunia and the wiles of good-time bad girl Georgia Brown...and caught in a t... more »ug-of-war between emissaries from the Lord and Satan. How can virtue triumph over evil? Well, as Petunia says, "Sometimes when you fight the devil, you gotta jab him with his own pitchfork." Debuting movie director Vincente Minnelli (An American in Paris, Gigi) and stars Ethel Waters, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington are more than a match for the devil in this musical treasure. With a soundtrack of dazzling standards including Taking a Chance on Love and Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe, Cabin in the Sky is a joyous classic.« less
"This is a delightful film. The Broadway score, already one of the finer scores for its time, with the classics "Taking a chance on love" and "Cabin in the sky", was further improved with the addition of "Happiness is just a thing called Joe". There are several other wonderful numbers, including the Duke Ellington number with some great dancing, and "Bubbles" singing "Shine". The cast was the finest black talent of the day, and the movie demonstrates why Ethel Waters was considered the greatest singer and entertainer of her day. In this movie, she also demonstrates that she is a fine actress and a fine dancer. It's a pity that the racial climate of the time didn't allow her more films - she's as magical on screen as she was, by all reports, in person. The remainder of the cast includes a stunning young Lena Horne, surely one of the most beautiful women ever to appear on screen, and who is here allowed to be smolderingly sexy, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, who's an endearing Little Joe, Rex Ingram as Lucifer Jr, and smaller but memorable appearances by Louis Armstrong, Butterfly McQueen, and "Bubbles" of Buck and Bubbles. Seeing Waters sing "Taking a chance on love", "cabin in the sky", "Happiness is just a thing called Joe" and her wicked reprise of "Honey in the honeycomb", complete with some dance steps that will floor you, is more than enough to recommend the movie, but all performances are delightful, and the songs and background music are great. If we take it as a "fable", as we are counseled to do at the beginning, then I don't see it as a racist or dated film. The characters are almost all well delineated and believable within the "fable" context, and are no more stereotypical in this context than numerous films of white people at the time that were also fantasies.It's a pleasure to watch from beginning to end - clearly a timeless classic, especially valuable for archiving for all time the classic Waters performance and the superb acting, singing, dancing and comedic skills of some of the greatest black talent pre-World War II."
A Musical Morality Tale
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 08/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ethel Waters repeated her Broadway role of Petunia Jackson, a woman who fervently prays for her husband to mend his gambling ways for the screen with great success, as she sings and dances her way into our hearts. Petunia is the central character in the film, and has most of the songs. The film was also instrumental in making Lena Horne a star, and even though her part as the devil's handmaiden, Georgia Brown, is not a large one, she is stunning, and makes the screen sizzle with her sensual beauty.
Petunia's husband, Little Joe, is played by Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, and Little Joe's soul is in the balance, as Lucifer Jr. (Rex Ingram) battles The General (Kenneth Spencer) for where it will spend eternity. The scenes with Lucifer and his minions, who include Louis Armstrong, are hilarious, as they plot the best way to tempt Little Joe. The talent, music, and humor in this film make it well worth watching as entertainment, and also for its historical value of being one of the best all-black cast vehicles Hollywood produced.
"Cabin in the Sky" was the directorial film debut for Vincente Minnelli (he had directed the Broadway show), and some others in the terrific cast are John William Sublett, Butterfly McQueen, and Duke Ellington and his Orchestra. Music is by Harold Arlen, E.Y. Harburg, and more. The song list is: "Cabin in the Sky," "Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe" (nominated for a Best Song Oscar), "Taking a Chance on Love," "Life is Full of Consequence," "Li'l Black Sheep," "Shine," and "Honey in the Honeycomb." Total running time is 98 minutes. "
HAPPINESSS IS JUST A THING CALLED "Cabin" on DVD!
Eric | Columbus, OH | 01/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The beautiful Vernon Duke/John La Touche Broadway hit CABIN IN THE SKY was brought to the screen by the foremost studio of the era (the late and lamented M-G-M) and the foremost producer of musicals there, the magnificent Arthur Freed.
Freed engaged the services of the Broadway hit's original star Ethel Waters, and gave Vincente Minnelli his first assignment as a motion picture director. Minnelli had directed on stage, but spent two years at Metro learning the craft of filmmaking, before Freed gave him the opportunity to become one of the greatest of all motion picture directors. Minnelli's musicals are what he is best known for, but he also directed brilliant dramas (both period and contemporary), comedies (both slapstick and witty) and even films that could be considered noir. This man could do anything.....
The Warner DVD of CABIN features a clean, and crisp transfer with lovely extras including the Pete Smith short STUDIO VISIT which has the surviving footage of Lena Horne's outtake song from CABIN "Ain't it The Truth". The audio track for Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong's version of that same song, is used here with still visuals, as either that version was never filmed, or the number didn't survive in the copious musical outtake archive that the old MGM maintained, which now belongs in the hands of the mightiest of all studios (when it comes to DVDs) WB. I also loved the commentary with sound bytes from Lena Horne and Rochester's widow and daughter.
THIS IS A MUST HAVE! GET IT TODAY!"
A Great Classic Film
M. Edwards | 06/23/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"With today's "political correctness" this film doesnt stand a chance of being watched as it truly deserves. Its too bad, because this film is a VERY entertaining and heart warming experience. I wasnt sure what to expect and I have to admit i was surprised when i found myself laughing at the humor in the film (no, it is NOT racist humor at ALL! ) For such an old 'period' film to be so entertaining, all the while keeping in line with the story and music, is a rare thing these days. Being a BIG Duke Ellington fan I had to buy this Video. Ellington and crew put on a fine show, along with the supporting role by Louis Armstrong, (a funny role! ), and some great tap dancing and a swing dance piece with one of the several featured Ellington tunes. (Great Trombone solo by Lawrence Brown also. In addition to Brown, if you are sharp you can also catch Harry Carney(?) and Johnny Hodges in the Ellingotn Line up.)I never imagined Lena Horne was so beautiful in her youth, but i must say "WOW" This is a great movie with a STRONG message that each of us can learn from. You will be happy to have this in your collection!"
A TOUR-DE-FORCE OF TALENT FROM AN AMAZING CAST
M. Edwards | Buckinghamshire United Kingdom | 10/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In these enlightened times, a movie such as Cabin in the Sky - which is heavily laden with racial stereotypes - seems awkwardly out of place. However, before we all jump on the political correctness bandwagon, it's worth remembering that the movie was made during WW2, and that Civil Rights Movements were some 20 or so years in the future.Much has been written about the plot, so I won't focus on that. I will say, however, that this movie is a tour-de-force of talent. It marked Vincent Minelli's directorial debut, and it's clear that he did a fine job. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Lena Horne and Ethel Waters all play their parts brilliantly. If there was any animosity between Lena and Ethel, it was easy to understand. Ethel fought tough and nail to climb the showbiz ladder, whereas Lena was the first African-American actress to be groomed specially for Hollywood. Ms Horne had specially designed gowns and mingled with the upper echelons of MGM. The moviemakers even created a special make up range for her in an effort to pass her off as an exotic Latin American belle. Lena refused to disrespect her race by denying her heritage.Anyway, back to the film. It's Ethel Water's character, Petunia, that I warm to the most. She may have been downtrodden, and reduced to scrubbing floors. However, there's a down-to-earth warmth that radiates from her. Her rendition of "Happiness is a Thing Called Joe" is superb. The late Waters was a remarkable, versatile performer, and it's a shame that she's not as well known among the masses like Lena.As for Lena's Georgia Brown, she's nothing short of breathtakingly beautiful. Ms Horne was something of a WW2 pin-up, and it's easy to see why. She tempts the viewers (and the censors, no doubt!) with her sexy lingerie, and isn't shy to show off a good bit of thigh! The only other African American woman who showed this much flesh was Josephine Baker, but she was doing her thing in Paris!The songs by Duke Ellington are great. Also look out for a young Louis Armstrong - he plays one of Lucifer's hilarious angels! Cabin in the Sky is fine musical - a classic, and it's high time is was released in the UK! However, us Brits will have to do with imports for the time being. As with all US video tapes, you'll need a VCR with NTSC playback to watch this movie."