Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another Movie You Might Not Know

I'm adding "Cadillac Records" to my Movies You Might Not Know list. The movie came out last year, but wasn't around long in theaters, so I didn't see it until it was on DVD.

"Cadillac Records" was the nickname of Chess, the label started by Leonard Chess (Adrian Brody) in Chicago to feature some of the blues musicians that played in his nightclub. When their records sold and he made money, Chess gave the artists a new Cadillac. First and foremost among those was Muddy Waters, played by the always strong Jeffrey Wright.

Unfortunately, we don't learn enough about Chess' penchant for ripping off the talent that made him rich, until the end credits show how some of them won lawsuits against him -- and against some of the white acts (Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin) that blatantly stole from these rock pioneers.

"Cadillac Records" fills in more of the story from an era when black musicians were forced to perform for segregated audiences and rarely crossed over to white radio. It's another part of the history of contemporary music that hasn't been told on screen before.

The cast includes Mos Def as Chuck Berry in all his slickness, Cedric The Entertainer as narrator Willie Dixon, a cameo by Eric Bogosian as Alan Freed, and another vibrant performance by Beyonce as the troubled Etta James. In the movie, she hits a home run with her cover of James' "At Last," which she also performed for the Obamas at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball in January...



Got a suggestion for the Movies You Might Not Know list? E-mail it to me or add it to the comments below.