Stormy Weather Andrew Stone

Much of the imagery of this all-black musical doesn't, as they say in the commentary, travel well, but as it's merely an excuse to showcase top black performers you're not likely to be too outraged. Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is the ostensible subject, who recounts his career through flashbacks and production numbers that include such luminaries as Fats Waller, Cab Calloway and, as his love interest, the inimitable Lena Horne. There's a certain amount of teeth-flashing and questionable stereotyping, but it's all in service of the production numbers, which show the dazzling talents of many singers, dancers and musicians that blast your bad feelings clean off the screen. Highlights include Waller performing "Ain't Misbehavin'" on piano, vocals and eyebrows, Calloway doing his verbal gymnastics (twice) and a big final production number to the title tune. To be sure, the plot is nominal (as it would be for a 77-minute running time) and Andrew Stone's direction is more for traffic than visual effect. But all that the talent on hand needs is a camera running to be cinema all on its own. It's a triumph of performance over material, with the cast giving their all to some thin material and knocking something affirmative out of the most negative moments. It's a guaranteed pleasure for anyone who watches it, and an interesting sign of the times for what hasn't changed in the interim. That commentary features USC prof Dr. Todd Boyd discussing the film's place in the history of black representations; he's very informative, though inexplicably he stops talking during the musical numbers. (Fox)