I'd almost forgotten just how much I liked Diana Ross in the 1975 movie "Mahogany" and how handsome her co-star Billy Dee Williams was-- and still is for that matter--until I recently caught part of this "Old School Video Pick" on TV-One's "Throwback Theatre." Wanting to see it all again--for at least the 40th time--I went into my collection and pulled it out and enjoyed it as much as I did the first time.
"Mahogany" has it all; fashion, music, drama and of course the incomparable Ross. Directed by Berry Gordy Jr., in many ways the film mirrors Ross'own rags to riches story.
Ross, grew up poor in Detroit's Brewster Housing Projects and became the lead singers of The Supremes, one of the biggest and most influential and successful "girl groups" of all time.
In "Mahogany," which features the Academy-Award nominated song "Do You Know Where You're Going To" (sung by Ross) Ross plays Tracy, a pretty, young ghetto woman from Chicago's South Side who works part time in a department store while trying to put herself through fashion school. She's very talented and dreams of becoming a top model and fashion designer.
But Ross discovers early on throughout her journey in life that not everyone shares her dreams and goals. And she runs across many people who throw up every possible roadblock to deter her.
Don't you just hate Haters?
But fortunately Tracy does cross paths with Brian (Williams). Brian is a political activist who is running for a spot on the city council. One of his goals is to upgrade his struggling neighborhood. Ross and Brian knock heads at first but they make a love connection in the most unlikely way.
While the physical attraction is obvious between them, they are worlds apart politically. But just as they are about to get on the same page politically and emotionally, Ross gets a huge break.
The store she works at hires famous fashion photographer Sean McEvoy (a devilishly "psycho" Anthony Perkins) to shoot an ad campaign. One of the models doesn't quite cut it and Tracy is asked to fill in much to the dismay of her bitchy, white, female boss. Tracy dazzles, sashays and vogues her way into Sean's heart.
The girl has definitely got it. But that "it" is too much for Sean to handle. Still, Sean promises her the world. And Tracy latches on even when he brings her to an objectionable fashion shoot that features high fashion models being photographed among some homeless women in her neighborhood.
Tracy can't see that Sean is using her but Brian sure can. And he's livid about it. But Tracy maintains that Brian is simply jealous of Sean--which he is a bit. But Sean is jealous of Brian too.
But even before Brian can utter his classic "Mahogany" line that "success is nothing unless you have someone to share it with," Tracy flies off to Rome with Sean in hopes of striking it big.
As expected Tracy wows them in Rome and becomes an overnight sensation. But it isn't without cost. When she refuses sexual advances from fashion mover and shaker Christian Rosetti (Jean-Pierre Aumont), her whirlwind fashion dreams soon fade away.
As if that weren't bad enough, she agrees to sleep with Sean for getting her these breaks, but discovers he doesn't quite "measure up" to her standards. Love can be so unkind.
Meanwhile, Brian-who lost his bid for city council--has heard about Tracy's success in Rome and decides to vacation there and pay her a visit. After a male power trip scuffle between Brian and Sean that involves a gun, (one of the most dramatic scenes in the movie) Brian has seen and had enough of both of them--or so he thinks--and he heads back to Chicago.
Broken and dejected Ross spends her days and nights consuming large quantities of Scotch. But love truly does conquer all and prevails in "Mahogany" as both Ross and Brian realize they are better together than apart.
Ross sees too that maybe her calling is also in her community working alongside Brian rather than against him. I know most feminists aren't going to like this part of the movie seeing that Ross put her career aside to "stand by her man," but the movie was made in 1975 and besides, how can you resist Billy Dee Williams?
When Tracy comes back to Chicago and surprises Brian by showing up at one of his political rallies it is a classic and heart-warming scene.
Diana Ross has never looked more radiant than she does during many of the film's fashion scenes. And as for Billy Dee Williams, the man just oozes charisma and sex appeal all over the screen.
"Mahogany" debuted in theatres 32 years ago was re-released in May this year. Like Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams it's a classic and has held up very well.