"Stompin' at the Savoy" (1992)
C’est La Exhale. Four women in fur coats chasing dreams. One who wants to own a hair salon. One who dreams of being a singer. One who wants to hit the big money and one who wants to have her own place. All who convene at the Savoy, the hip nightclub of slick headed men and wide skirted women. The four women boogied to escape frustrations of achieving their ambitions.
The women knew their worth. Pauline (Vanessa Williams) may have batted a pretty eye but she would step, hot breath to hot breath, to any man and got what she wanted. Vanessa Bell Calloway and Lynn Whitfield were wonderful with the charisma and pain attributed to their characters.
A problem today is there isn’t a place to relieve stress. A place to socialize and dance that is not of catching the Holy Ghost. Why did these women look to marriage as an outlet for security? The relationship between Dorothy (Vanessa Bell Calloway) and Bill (John D’Aquino) was forbidden. She was the help for a family who gave her a fur coat. Bill loved Dorothy but as passionate and mutual as it was, it was a reminder, beyond skin deep, that they were different.
Debbie Allen directed, co-choreographed and acted in the film. Dawn Lewis as a club singer and Jasmine Guy as Alice, one of the four women, also showed the world they came from. On the lonely slick concrete, the issues of the 40s are paralleled today. Mental Health. In and Out of Employment. Excess. “Why is it so hard to be colored?” is the question that grabs the message of this film. No matter the skin tone, life was hard for these women. Each woman achieved success but pride ultimately deteriorated not only their friendships but also their own self. They started out happy until they weren’t.