Review: ‘Been Rich All My Life’

Providing an inspiration for active retirement, the ex-Harlem Renaissance chorus girls profiled in docu "Been Rich All My Life" are still shaking booty while most of their contemporaries can only shuffle their walkers. Nostalgic tribute by Heather Lyn MacDonald ("Ballot Measure 9") is natural public TV fare that should have a long shelf-life.

Providing an inspiration for active retirement, the ex-Harlem Renaissance chorus girls profiled in docu “Been Rich All My Life” are still shaking booty while most of their contemporaries can only shuffle their walkers. Nostalgic tribute by Heather Lyn MacDonald (“Ballot Measure 9”) is natural public TV fare that should have a long shelf-life.

None younger than 84, the Silver Belles have been delighting audiences with their not-so-athletic but still sassy moves since Bertye Lou Wood and younger manager Geri Kennedy first assembled the group of former Harlem show dancers in 1985. Currently a performing quartet (96-year-old Bertye just recently stopped dancing), they constitute a treasure-trove of experience illuminating one of the greatest periods in American culture. Demonstrating spunk and independence as early as 12, they often left rural homes for the glamour of the big city, signing on as chorus girls in a then-thriving environment for black talent. They performed at Manhattan’s legendary Cotton Club and Apollo Theater and on a 1938 South American tour, backing acts from tap master Bill Robinson to Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. Archival photos and footage complement the ingratiating subjects’ latter-day reminiscences.

Been Rich All My Life

Production

A Toots Crackin production. Produced, directed by Heather Lyn MacDonald.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), MacDonald, Jon Miller; editors, MacDonald, Robert Jorissen; music, Pete Whitman. Reviewed at Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct. 7, 2005. Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Bertye Lou Wood, Cleo Hayes, Marion Coles, Fay Ray, Elaine Ellis, Geri Kennedy.
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