We're waiting patiently for Halle Bailey and Danielle Brooks, along with a stellar A-list cast, to headline the movie musical adaption of The Color Purple, based on Alice Walker’s 1982 novel. It tells the story of Celie, a Southern Black woman who endures life hardships in her early years, but finally learns to find her voice, and it was first made into a movie starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey in 1985. The TV titan host and producer brought Oprah Winfrey Presents: The Color Purple to the Broadway stage in 2005. Over the years, it has featured some of the brightest musical talents including LaChanze, Cynthia Ervivo, Fantasia Barrino and Adrianna Hicks.
The latest version of The Color Purple won’t be out until December 2023, leaving plenty of time to catch up on Black musical movies that defined a moment. Here are six for you to watch. Feel free to hum along as well.
Loosely based on the Motown label and the Supremes, this 2006 film follows the meteoric rise of “The Dreamettes.” While Effie has always been the group's lead vocals, record label executive Curtis Taylor, Jr., played by Jamie Foxx, catapults Deena Jones, an effervescent Beyoncé, to become the face of the group. It's soulful music, tons of sequins and a tour de force performance by Eddie Murphy. "And I am telling you…" you're going to love this rags to riches to rebirth tale. Jennifer Hudson, who plays Effie, won the 2007 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance.
Annie may have had a hard-knocked life, but this film is pure joy. Quvenzhané Wallis stars as the spunky little orphaned girl who gets to spend some time with hard-nosed billionaire and mayoral candidate Will Stacks, played by Jamie Foxx, and wins his heart. Even though she's found a new family to love, Annie still believes her real parents will come back for her tomorrow, leading some unscrupulous characters to try to steal her away for the reward. But in this 2014 twist on the original, Annie's street-smart wits keep her and the new family she discovers along the way from any real harm.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
An inventive toymaker, Jeronicus Jangle, rediscovers his magical touch when his granddaughter, Journey, comes to stay with him, even if it's a little bit of a reluctant journey. This singing and dancing 2020 holiday spectacle has an all-star cast that includes Forest Whitaker, Anika Noni Rose, Keegan-Michael Key and Phylicia Rashad. It’s worth an annual watch just to see Marcia Wallace, who plays smitten post office maven Ms.Johnston, serenade Whitaker with her rompy rendition of “Miles and Miles.”
Diana Ross searches for “no place like home” in this 1978 all-Black adaption of The Wizard of Oz. She stars as Dorothy, a mild-mannered teacher from Harlem, who lands in the strange and magical land of Oz—which looks a lot like New York City. There she encounters the Scarecrow, played by the late Michael Jackson, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, who must all battle the Wicked Witch of the West, Evilene (Mabel King), so all their wishes can be granted. With an R&B and groovy beat, this is one fun way to ease on down the road (ruby slippers included).
Based on the opera Carmen and adapted for the Broadway stage in the 1940s, Dorothy Dandridge stars as Carmen Jones, a vixen who seduces a GI named Joe, whose love for her becomes insufferable when she falls for another man. Harry Belafonte and Pearl Bailey also star in the feature film. While it's a tragic love story at heart, it's one to cheer for as one of Hollywood’s first all-Black musical productions.
Another movie loosely based on the rise of the Supremes, Sparkle tells the story of a music girl group that achieves unprecedented levels of fame, only to let that very success tear them apart. You can watch the 2012 remake starring Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter and Whitney Houston in her final film role. Catch the original 1976 feature with Irene Cara, Philip Michael Thomas and Lonette McKee; or, make it a double-header night and watch both.