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Hitsville: The Making of Motown

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

This feel-good but sanitised look at an iconic label boasts some absolute bangers and a few juicy star anecdotes.

There are plenty of documentaries that delve into the history of Motown, but ‘Hitsville’ is the first to have the blessing and involvement of founder Berry Gordy. Matching the feel-good spirit of the songs the Detroit label produced, it takes a toe-tapping look down memory lane to show just how Gordy and co-founder Smokey Robinson defined a genre.

Starting from the top, directors Gabe and Benjamin Turner weave in archive footage, recordings and images with Gordy and Robinson’s exclusive interviews, which discuss the mechanics of a business inspired by the Gordy’s time working on a car assembly line. From Marvin Gaye and The Supremes to Stevie Wonder and Martha Reeves, this documentary shows how Motown crafted singers into stars before ‘Pop Idol’ and ‘The X Factor’ came along.

There are plenty of fun anecdotes too: Neil Young describing his dancing lessons; how Reeves got to sing ‘Dancing in the Streets’ because of a union dispute and Wonder on coming up with ‘Fingertips Part II’ live on stage are particularly enjoyable to hear.

Sadly, juicy behind-the-scenes gossip – like Gordy’s romance with Diana Ross and the legal disputes with writing trio Holland-Dozier-Holland – is glossed over or omitted completely. It makes the film far more clean-cut than Motown’s origins ever were. Still, if you’re a sucker for the hits of the ’60s and ’70s, this is a nostalgic temptation you won’t want to miss.

Hanna Flint
Written by
Hanna Flint

Release Details

  • Rated:12A
  • Release date:Friday 4 October 2019
  • Duration:112 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Benjamin Turner, Gabe Turner
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