CABIN IN THE SKY (1943)
Article #1315 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-20-2004
Posting Date: 3-19-2005
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Featuring Ethel Waters, Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, Lena Horne
When Little Joe is shot after engaging in a crooked dice game, the prayers of his wife save his soul from the devil. However, he has only six months to live, and must reform his life if he hopes to go to heaven.
This all-black musical would make a good companion piece to GREEN PASTURES, another all-black movie about spiritual matters; both movies featured Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, Oscar Polk, and Rex Ingram. The latter played ‘De Lawd’ in GREEN PASTURES; here he jumps the fence to play a character from the other side, a devil named Lucifer Jr. whose idea men include Louis Armstrong, Willie Best and Mantan Moreland. This was Vincente Minnelli’s first directorial credit, and the music plays a big role here, with Ethel Waters and Lena Horne doing much of the singing; they even perform the same number at one point, ‘Honey in the Honeycomb’. Even Eddie Anderson gets into the singing and dancing, and though he does a fun little job with the latter, I’m not really keen on hearing any more of his warbling. Duke Ellington and his band perform at one point, but the real cameo was a special appearance by the tornado from THE WIZARD OF OZ! Still, if you did pair it up with GREEN PASTURES, I’m afraid it would have to be the second feature; it’s done well enough, but it just doesn’t achieve the same heights of inspiration. As you might expect, there’s some stereotypes floating around as well (particularly with the gambling angle), but the likable performances and music pull it through.