Although its plot is loosely based on the life and career of entertainer Bill "Bojangles
, the 1943 Twentieth Century Fox
film Stormy Weather
is really just an excuse to get some of the era's blues
greats together to perform some outstanding musical numbers. Like the much later film, Purple Rain
, starring Prince
, it's music that dominates the movie, not the story.
The story is simple enough, Bill Williamson (Robinson) reminisces about coming home from World War I and first crossing paths with performer Selena Rogers (played by an indescribably lovely young Lena Horne). Flashbacks follow their path to stardom and his attempts to woo the career-minded chanteuse.
Along the way Robinson displays his superior dancing skills and bumps into legendary performers like Fats Waller (who performs his signature Ain't Misbehavin', Ada Brown, the Nicholas Brothers (who have a marvelous dance number with Robinson) and Mae E. Johnson (who performs a delightful version of I lost my sugar in Salt Lake City. Cab Calloway is also in the cast and gives a smooth performance of Geechy Joe and a show-stopping version of Jumpin' Jive. Lena Horne's breathtaking rendition of the title song made it an instant classic.
Stormy Weather is unsusual in that it not only consists of an all-black cast, but that the characters are remarkably unstereotyped, especially for the time. Although the plot and storyline are essentially forgettable, it is still a fantastic showcase of some of the top talent of the time.