Amazing Grace (1974)
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as Forthwith Withson
as Welton J. Waters
as Creola Waters
as Cousin Lincoln
as Mayor Scott
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I'd wanted to see this movie because I'd read a comment about a scene where Slappy White, depressed after a sad showing for his song and dance routine at a local political rally, along with Jackie "Moms" Mabley, walk home dejectedly and step on a poster of Stepin Fetchit (aka Lincoln Perry). It is indeed a sobering moment in the film. Perry, the first black superstar in Hollywood, is regarded nowadays with more disdain than praise for his repeated although personally lucrative portrayal of what many would consider a horribly demeaning silver screen stereotype of African Americans. That moment Mabley and White -- a 70s version of the old Stepin Fetchit character with his song and dance routine -- step on the poster is a kind of acknowledgment that African Americans, having been politicized in the all-embracing revolution that was the decade of the 60s, must move forward to create a new image. That new image is embodied in Welton J. Waters, the character played by Moses Gunn, who goes on in the movie to become the first African American Mayor of Baltimore. It is indeed a new dawning, not just for Waters, but especially for all the younger up-and-coming generation of African Americans represented most potently by the students of Morgan State University who rally to support Waters's mayoral bid. Definitely Amazing Grace is one of the amazing pieces in the movie puzzle depicting the history of African Americans, and it is worth seeing as such. But what I did not expect, and what may have been the most powerful moment on second viewing once I knew what was happening, is that Lincoln Perry himself makes an early cameo appearance playing a face-in-the-crowd, very much NOT Stepin Fetchit member of Mabley's extended family. That, in a movie where it is acknowledged that the old Stepin Fetchit stereotype must be left behind in the past, is a moment even more stunning than the scene where Mabley and White actually step on his poster.
I didn't know anything about Moms Mably but boy she had zero screen charisma as she mumbled in an old gravelly voice to herself throughout the movie. Amazing Grace was pretty bad but I made it through. It could have really said something about the message that it was going for but backpedaled into serious boredom.
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