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  Mahogany Design For Living
Year: 1975
Director: Berry Gordy
Stars: Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Perkins, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Beah Richards, Nina Foch, Marisa Mell, Lenard Norris, Ira Rogers, Kristine Cameron, Dan Daniel, Princess Galitzine, Don Howard, Ted Liss, Albert Rosenberg, Jacques Stany, Bruce Vilanch
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: A big fashion show in Europe is where Tracy (Diana Ross), better known to her fans as Mahogany, is receiving her moment of glory: all her latest designs are awarded a rapturous response, and as she is a model as well, she can bask in the glory of wearing one of her own creations into the bargain. Yet there's something missing from her life as it is today, and as she pauses backstage before her encore, she recalls her days back in Chicago as a poor, struggling fashion student who longed to break out of the boring course she was taking and really let fly with imaginative designs. One night, on the way home, she encountered aspiring politician Brian Walker (Billy Dee Williams) who was shouting through a megaphone about the state of the housing problems. Tracy didn't take much to being yelled at like that, but little did she know how their paths would cross again...

One of three starring roles Miss Ross took during the nineteen-seventies as a Motown star, Mahogany was considered in its day an item of camp to rival the likes of Valley of the Dolls, yet it has a grittier side to its glamour as if there was a blaxploitation movie struggling to get out. Essentially a story of a girl who makes it big but forgets her roots, then remembers that men are better than careers, it was pretty much a melodrama in the mould of the big "woman's pictures" (not chick flicks in those days) of yesteryear, with Miss Ross deigning to essay the role of one of the little people - provided she gets to play a superstar at one point as well. More than one point, in fact, and she even designed her own costumes.

The film was started under the direction of Tony Richardson but he was swiftly fired and replaced by head of Motown Berry Gordy, who also happened to be Ross's boyfriend at the time, at least ensuring the doe eyed star would look her best throughout. Tracy gets on the first rung of the ladder by becoming a secretary in a fashion firm, where one day she is noticed by photographer Sean McAvoy, played by Anthony Perkins in a performance to relish, beginning from a point of calm and escalating to all out, bug-eyed, top of the voice crazy by the ending. It's Sean who names Tracy Mahogany, because he says he likes to name his models after inanimate objects and not because of Ross's wooden acting. Of course not.

Tracy and Sean do grow romantically involved, but not before she and Brian are an item. After accidentally getting him arrested at a protest, Tracy joins his campaign (although we never find out if he ever gets elected or not) and it's he who reminds her that she comes from the streets and should never forget that. However, they break up and our heroine is free to join Sean in Rome to see her career really take off as a designer-model, the best of both worlds you'd think, especially after that montage with Ross donning some achingly seventies clothes. Did I mention the theme song? "Do You Know Where You're Going To?" is played at every opportunity, in many variations, to remind you that the soundtrack album is available, although the only stage where the star sings on camera is a bit of improvisation. There are considerable scenes of hilarity, none funnier than when Sean forces Tracy to pose for photos in an out of control car, but this is an old fashioned star vehicle through and through; Perkins makes it worth seeing for seasoned bad move fans. Music by Michael Masser.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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