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Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather
February 19, 2022 - 7:30 pm
author Miriam J. Petty, Q&A moderated by Philana Payton, assistant professor, UCI Film and Media Studies.

Read UCLA Newsroom's interview with Miriam J. Petty.

In her groundbreaking study, Stealing the Show: African American Performers and Audiences in 1930s Hollywood, Professor Miriam J. Petty presents a vital, fresh perspective on the careers of Hattie McDaniel, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Louise Beavers and other Black stars who established themselves as on-screen icons while navigating the inequitable production practices of the classical Hollywood era. Drawing on a wide array of primary sources, Petty explores how these stars worked to claim control over the meaning of their own images, what they represented for Black audiences at the time and how they ultimately came to “steal the show.” As part of this program, Petty will give a brief presentation, followed by a screening and on-stage conversation.

Stormy Weather

U.S., 1943

Twentieth Century Fox’s Stormy Weather features a dazzling string of Black performances illuminating a (very) loose biopic of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson who leads an all-star cast. When news arrives that famed dancer Bill Williamson (Robinson) is being feted with a lifetime achievement award, he pauses an impromptu front porch dance lesson to recount the story of his career to a group of Black children gathered round. From the Army band, to a Memphis cafe, to Chicago and then Hollywood, Robinson lightly rides the ups and downs of showbiz and love with his on and off stage partner Selina (Lena Horne). With knockout turns along the way by Robinson, Horne, Cab Calloway, Ada Brown, the Nicholas Brothers and more, the film celebrates a generation of Black performers while looking forward to the generations to come.

DCP, b&w, 78 min. Director: Andrew L. Stone. Screenwriter: Frederick Jackson, Ted Koehler, H. S. Kraft. Cast: Lena Horne, Bill Robinson, Cab Calloway.

Funding has been provided by California Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

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