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Been Rich All My Life (Unrated)

Release Date: July 21st, 2006 (Quad Cinema) by First Run Features.
Directed by Heather Lyn MacDonald.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about the “Silver Belles”, a group of women tap danced in Harlem professionally from the 1930’s until their golden years today.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Been Rich All My Life remains fascinating thanks to the five lively tap dancers—Bertye Lou Wood, Cleo Hayes, Marion Coles, Fay Ray, Elaine Ellis--which sadly turned into four when one of them died. Director Heather Lyn MacDonald does a great job of providing the history of how each of the Silver Belles met in Harlem during the 1930’s. Since then, since the 1930’s they played at popular venues such as the Cotton Club and the Apollo. They also performed with band leaders such as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. After a break from performing with bands, they came back together in 1985 to officially form the Silver Belles. More one-on-one interviews with these dancers would have helped to get to know them a little better—not just to let the camera observe their behavior together. More background information about how the Silver Belles fell in love with dancing and singing to begin with would also have been interesting. At least MacDonald keeps you fascinated for more information. Been Rich All My Life does have a few surprises, especially at the end which leaves some suspense about the Silver Belles’ future. Fortunately, MacDonald combines old footage and old photographs which successfully capture the Silver Belles’ talent and charm. Not only can they still dance in their 80’s and 90’s, but they can also sing amazingly with plenty of audacity.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: It’s uplifting to watch these continue to do what they love no matter what. In many ways, they set a role model for performers who love to entertain while showing passion for their work, courage and, above all, joie de vivre.



IN A NUTSHELL: Endlessly fascinating, charming and uplifting.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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