The Duke Is Tops (film #2 on Side A of Disc #3 of Classic Musicals DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2005)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

In this all-black cast musical, Lena Horne plays Ethel Andrews, an up-and-coming singer who is romantically involved with her producer, Duke Davis. When a talent scout claims he can make Ethel a star, but only without Duke, Duke cuts off Ethel, falsely claiming he was paid off, in order not to hold her back. Unfortunately, Duke’s show is a flop without Ethel, and he is reduced to helping a friend of his beef up his medicine show. It turns out that Ethel is not so hot without Duke either, and it all ends happily with them successfully hitting the big time together. This is a well made and entertaining film, with few stereotypes, good acting, and fun musical numbers. The scenes of the medicine show give a fascinating look at a form of entertainment that was in its death throes during the 30s. Lena Horne had not yet developed her temptress persona, so it’s interesting to see her play a nice girl for once. All in all, this is one of the better all-black cast films.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

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