Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Stormy Weather Premieres

On July 21, 1943, the film “Stormy Weather” premiered at two New York theatres to rave reviews. Starring Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, in his last role, and Lena Horne, the film is based on Robinson’s life, a WWI vet who returns home to pursue his dream of becoming a dancer. It was the first of two movies produced in 1943 featuring a predominantly African-American cast.

Groundbreaking because it starred African-Americans in lead roles and broke stereotypes of black characters (typically servants and comedic buffoons), the movie was selected in 2001 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. A who’s who in the entertainment field, Stormy Weather featured Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, the Nicholas Brothers, F.E. Miller, Ada Brown, and Katherine Dunham.

Even if you haven’t seen the film, you may have heard many of its twenty musical numbers such as “Ain’t Misbehavin,” “De Camptown Races,” “That Ain’t Right,” “Jumpin’ Jive,” and of course the title track, “Stormy Weather.” Famed dancer Fred Astaire commented that “the Jumpin’ Jive sequence was the greatest musical number he had ever seen.” High praise indeed.

The day after the premiere the New York Times wrote a glowing review stating that “Stormy Weather is a first-rate show, just the kind of spirited divertisement that will make you forget all about your own momentary weather troubles…Musically, it is a joy to the ear…to single out each entertainer and skit for even a sentence will run this report to considerable length. In short, “swell” is the adjective for all twelve of the principal turns.”

An interesting aside is the critic’s observation that “the sets are believable, gaudiness having been ruled out by the $5,000 war set-ceiling limitation under which Stormy Weather was made.” Something today’s movie makers don’t have to deal with.

Have you ever seen this classic Hollywood production?

Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, journalist, blogger, and history geek. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda has lived in historical places most of her life. She is a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and a Trustee for her local public library. Active in her church Linda serves as treasurer, usher, and choir member. To find out more about Linda and her books visit www.LindaShentonMatchett.com. Sign up for her newsletter to get links to free ebooks, book reviews, historical tidbits, and more.


  1. I recognize the songs but have never seen the movie. Gotta look this one up as I love movies from that era. Thanks for introducing it to me.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Isn't it amazing the number of songs we know, but haven't actually seen the film?

  2. I haven't seen this classic Hollywood production, but recognize some of the songs. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I’ve never seen it...interesting