Sparkle, Neely, sparkle!
Tue Jan 2 2007
After seeing Dreamgirls for the third time last week (but at least in a different city), I had the pleasure of watching the just-released DVD of Sparkle, a clunky, funky 1976 film about three sisters (Lonette McKee, Irene Cara, Dwan Smith) who form a girl group in Harlem. Directed by Sam O'Steen (better known as an editor than a helmer) and written by Joel Schumacher (best known as a wretched director, but trivia buffs, take note: Schumacher was the costume designer for both Play It as It Lays and Interiors), Sparkle has no production values whatsoever, halting dialogue and ridiculous plot twists—all of which are part of the film's awkward charm. It also has six terrific songs written by Curtis Mayfield, including "Jump" and "Giving Him Something He Can Feel." (My introduction to the movie was through the soundtrack, recorded by Aretha Franklin, which I bought sometime in the mid-'90s.) The pleasures don't stop there: Philip Michael Thomas, eight years before Miami Vice first aired, is awfully cute as Stix, sporting a mile-high pompadour and sharing a duet with Irene Cara. What a feeling.