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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Dance > Music > Jazz > Blues > Been Rich All My Life (Documentary/Dance)

Been Rich All My Life (Documentary/Dance)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Documentary: B-



The Silver Bells are a group of female dancers from the 1930s who are still together today!  From Harlem, New York, they were chorus girls at the peak of that city’s cultural life and worked with all the Jazz and Dance greats of the time.  Heather Lyn MacDonald’s documentary Been Rich All My Life (2006) is a great look at and tribute to their lives and achievements in a way that is so long overdue that it is amazing they are still around to tell it.


Running 80 minutes, the stories of art compete with those of sexism, racism, struggle, respect, dignity and breaking ground without knowing it.  MacDonald tells us in a supplement that she could have done a work on each woman, which points out the problem that this should have been at least 90 minutes and more of the facts and stories should have been in the supplements with all the room this DVD had.  I know about budget constraints, but the stories are so good, it is a fair-enough complaint.  Otherwise, this is compelling and recommended.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot on tape and is clean with consistent color for the most part, while the Dolby Digital 2.0 is simple stereo at best.  Playback is just fine and there is occasional archival footage inserted.  Extras include shimmy dance lessons, original bonus music, a wonderful stills section, interview with composer Pete Whitman and bonus scenes with Director MacDonald interview.


For the record, the names of the great ladies here are Cleo Hayes, Fay Ray, Marion Coles, Elaine Ellis, Bertye Lou Wood and Geri Kennedy.  The title refers to living a rich life, though for what they did, they never got paid nearly enough.  Having outlived the evil and hate they survived however, they and we do get the last laugh.  Now there’s a show-stopping finish we can all appreciate.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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