. . . Boy! What a Girl

. . .

Movie Comment: Boy! What a Girl

As Juliet Clark points out, it's a rare putting-on-a-show musical comedy that could boast of such intimate acquaintance with desperate golddigging (although if Orson Welles had directed a musical comedy...): Given their strictly limited set of venues, race movie producers had to scramble even more than the Poverty Row studios, and this was one of their last gasps.

Slam's high note Like many a last gasp before and after, Boy! What a Girl bet on sheer quality being enough to change the world and save the day. (As we in the software industry know, that trick never works.) Its pressbook boasted that "the production cost of the picture is at least four times that spent on any all-Negro feature to date" (meaning, apparently, about $50,000), and predicted that "an all-Negro motion picture can be produced to play any theater in the country and not merely confined to the some 600 odd playhouses that cater strictly to an all-Negro audience."

They managed the sheer (very sheer) quality. Of the race movies I've seen, Two-Gun Man from Harlem and The Duke Is Tops were kind of fun, the others have been "of historical interest," but Boy! What a Girl is just plain (very plain) good: consistently knee-slapping farce (no one's ever come up with a silly French name to beat "Gaston de la Quatrième de la Douzième de la Pousse-café"), consistently professional acting, music (led by "Slam" Stewart) excellent enough to help us overlook the not-so-consistent lip-synching, and some of the dirtiest jitterbugging ever put on film. Even the familiar ugly-guy-in-drag shtick worked: unlike, say, Jack Lemmon, "Madame Deborah" gave forth with so much personality that you could really believe the marriage proposals.

But, of course, they lost the day. Even with cool white guy Gene Krupa making a cameo appearance, there was no way for a "race movie" to achieve crossover success in 1947: you can't reach the audience if the theaters won't show you, and that would've required the cooperation of major studios and their distribution channels. Instead of triumphantly launching a new business model, Boy! What a Girl signalled the end of an old one: in just two years, Hollywood began to loosen up a bit on its "servants and singers only, and make sure the singers can be cut" rule, and, unable to compete with the application of big money to limited visibility, the production of race movies ceased.

Though their timing may have been bad, the movie-makers' instincts were vindicated some years later when their show's leading lady was called out of retirement for a genuine (and typically compromised) crossover success.

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David Auerbach writes:

Regarding "Scrooge McClock," I can't resist bringing up Barks' "Heirloom Watch" story, where the gears of time dictate nature; if a 200-year-old watch says that the next solar eclipse will be in two minutes, despite all scientific predictions to the contrary, the eclipse will still happen, courtesy of a previously unknown planet. Scrooge to Gyro: "Be sure to tune up the part that predicts the eclipses of the sun!"
And old-timey readers might like to know that our Boy! What a Girl text has been spiced up with a shot of "Slam" Stewart bowing the bass and a page of jitterbugging stills (oxymoron intended).

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I'm very pleased to announce a new (and nomenclaturally significant) addition to our Bellona Times Repress: a short biography of Samuel R. Delany by his pseudonymous third-person researcher, K. Leslie Steiner. My thanks go to Josh Lukin for bringing the document to my attention, and to Delany for permission to post it.

Elsewhere, the never-out-of-style Lisa Maira brings news of cultural rebirth:

The web is cool again. The orginal Mr. Edible Starchy Tuber Head is back.

That eminent researcher, writer, and producer Chris Albertson handles intros for the Boy! What a Girl combo:

Cast includes musicians Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis (tenor sax), Beryl Booker (piano), John Collins (guitar), and John Simmons (bass).


Renfrew Q. Hobblewort, a man either of or four or thirty-four days ahead of his time, wishes us all:

Happy 40th anniversary of the Velvets' Summit High debut gig! - RQH

Isn't it nice? We're number one and so forth.

Speaking of mysteries, another reader has reviewed the entirety of our web-published career and sums it up like so:


We regret any inconvenience.

2005-11-21 - Another piece of Delany history just went up: his 1967 radio drama, The Star-Pit. Enjoy!


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.