Cabin in the Sky (1943)

Cabin in the Sky was the first musical film to feature a cast of all African Americans. It was also Vincente Minelli’s directorial debut. The film is a musical take on Faust centered around the well-meaning but morally frail Lil’ Joe.

The movie is mostly a religious moral tale. It has an interesting depiction of spiritual conscience, with memorable performances by the powerful Kenneth Spencer as a general of God’s army and Rex Ingram as Lucifer Jr. There’s also a fantastic trumpet player in Lucifer Jr.’s crowd played by none other than Louis Armstrong.

Most of the songs are sung by Ethel Waters, who also performed in the Broadway production. She has a powerful voice, but her songs are invariably slow and sappy, which is really my least favorite kind of music. Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson plays Lil Joe, but he was not originally from the Broadway production, something you probably could have guessed the second you heard him start singing “Life Is Full of Consequence”.

The movie is a solid production. There’s a surprising number of moving camera shots considering the film’s age, and it makes sure to include a lot of different dance styles, from jazz to tap, as most good musicals do. The film’s even got some spots of humor that still were effective today, something that I find rare in movies from this era. It does get a little dull during its run, but it’s an entertaining and historical film that is worth a watch to anyone who can enjoy classics and musicals.

Final rating: 7/10

–James A. Janisse


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