"STORMY WEATHER"--FINAL (ahem) DRAFT
Having watched enough clips now from "Stormy Weather" (and being constitutionally indisposed toward disagreeing with myself) I'm more convinced than ever that a rewrite of the SW screenplay--one in which Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is Lena Horne's long lost tap-dancing legend father (rather than her cast-aside would-be lover) -- would have elevated the film's status from near-miss (albeit with lots of great numbers) to pseudo-classic--not "Singing In The Rain", mind you, but certainly in a league with, say, "Cover Girl" or "The Bandwagon."
Check out the two clips below. The first is footage (don't know from what) of Robinson performing his famous "step dance" to "Swannee River." It's a brilliant routine (the youtuber who posted it says it was shot in 1932) that really could have been performed back at the turn of the century, when Robinson was a young man starting out in vaudeville (he was born in 1878). In my "Stormy Weather", I use this piece of film as part of a flashback sequence in which we see who "Bill Williamson" was as a young star--a heady, young man filled with talent and full of himself who deserts his wife and infant daughter.
Then check out the next clip. This is from "Stormy Weather" proper--it's Robinson and Lena Horne doing "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." In my version, this is the father/daughter reunion number. And, honestly, you don't have to reshoot a thing--there is nary a suggestion of sexual charisma between the twenty-something Lena and the sixty-something Bill (which, I contend, is what ruined the film in the first place). His looks to her are looks of fatherly love and appreciation. And her winsom, but hardly sensuous, responses are entirely appropriate to a girl who grew up without a daddy and who has now re-discovered him. Furthermore, perhaps this scene doesn't even happen IN REALITY.
You see, Bill Williamson has died before Selina discovers his true identity. When she does, she breaks down, distraught at never having been reunited properly with him...but then she has a dream that she's in "jazz heaven". There they both are, reunited with each other, singing and dancing in the clouds high above the sound stages at Twentieth Century Fox. You dig? What do you say, Darryl? Give me two weeks, a skeleton crew and one preview in Pasadena and I guarantee you results...
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 4:44 PM