With all of the excitement building — combined with the media hype and the film company publicity blitz — it seemed only right to go back to where it all began.
The original “Sparkle,” a Warner Bros. film directed by Sam O’Steen, was released in 1976 and became a favorite, particularly in the African-American community where it has maintained a consistent level of popularity. And not only did En Vogue do a remake of “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” in 1992, they also re-created the movie performance in their video.
Remakes of movies can be tricky, but in this case it was a logical venture, and certainly one that meant a lot to the late Whitney Houston.
“Sparkle” was also important in that it moved several young Black actors and actresses to the next level of their careers, including Detroit’s own Lonette McKee, Philip Michael Thomas, Irene Cara and Dorian Harewood.
Thomas co-starred with Don Johnson on the immensely popular and trendsetting “Miami Vice” from 1984 to 1989.
Cara appeared in several films and had huge hits with her recordings of “Flashdance...What a Feeling” and “Fame.”
McKee was a favorite in movies such as “The Cottton Club,” “Jungle Fever” and “Malcolm X.”
Harewood was more television oriented, including “Roots: The Next Generation,” “Matlock” and “Iron Man.”
“Sparkle” was said to be “inspired by the Supremes” but in actually had very little in common with the story of the famed trio from the Motor City. Comparing “Dreamgirls” with the Supremes would be much more logical.
Another thing that made “Sparkle” so successful and durable was the great songs (and production) provided by Curtis Mayfield, including “Giving Him Something He Can Feel,” “Look Into Your Heart,” “Hooked on Your Love” and “Jump.”
Strangely, there was never a soundtrack album. Instead, an album by Aretha Franklin was released titled “Sparkle: Music From the Warner Bros. Motion Picture.” It was a huge hit and among Franklin’s best work.
The cast was not happy about this turn of events although, truth be told, none of the singers in the movie could come close to matching the power of Franklin’s voice and performances. Still, their gripe was understandable.
The cast also included Dwan Smith, Mary Alice and Tony King.
“Sparkle” takes place in Harlem, New York, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It follows the meteoric rise of the three Williams sisters and the problems that end up tearing the group apart, from outside sources and from within. (I thought “Sister & the Sisters” was a rather silly sounding name.)
Much of the drama of the film is due to “Sister” (McKee) who hooks up with a seedy character named Satin and ends up drug addicted which ultimately leads to her death. Once the group has disbanded, “Sparkle” (Cara), despite some travails, goes on to have a successful solo career, reaching a peak as opening act for Ray Charles at Carnegie Hall.
“Sparkle” is an enjoyable film, although I felt it was racist for the film’s makers to have made sure that the evil, drug dealing Satin (a name close to “Satan”?) was played by a very dark-skinned actor. (“Dark” is evil, right?)
The new “Sparkle,” with Jordin Sparks, Whitney Houston, Carmen Ejogo, Mike Epps, Tika Simpter and Michael Beach in its cast, is set for Aug. 17 release
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