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USA 1948
Directed by
Josh Binney
98 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Boarding House Blues

Made by All-American News, a company that made newsreels for black Americans Boarding House Blues is to put it mildly not a good movie but as social history and as a showcase of black vaudeville it is fabulous.

The story, about a woman, Moms (Jackie Mabley) who runs a New York boarding house for black entertainers and is about to be shut down because of her inability to pay the rent, is merely a pretext to have a clutch of black performers strut their stuff (ignore the movie poster there's no swim suit involved.

The second half is a rambling affair centred around Dusty (Dusty Fletcher) clowning around with his partner in a monkey suit. From a modern perspective it’s wincingly caricatural and painfully unfunny. Once the main performances commence however the film becomes a delight (in this respect the segment featuring a one-legged dancer 'Crip' Heard is questionable).

Precisely because it is a low-to-no budget production we get a high degree of unvarnished authenticity from astonishingly gymnastic song-and-dance routines, to a kind of black Hope and Crosby comedy sketch to two charming songs from Una Mae Carlisle. The film then segues to band leader Lucky Millinder and his orchestra featuring Paul Breckenridge, Bull Moose Jackson and Anistine Allen

You probably won’t have heard of any the performers (I had not) but if you like Swing and early R&B    Boarding House Blues will be a treat.




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