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Cadillac Records, The Movie

This past weekend was the opening for the low rated film, Cadillac Records. It’s the story of the famed Chess Records and its groundbreaking impact on American music and its far -reaching influence around the world. A friend and I (the same friend that went with me to the Cornel West lecture) checked it out on opening night Friday. He’s such a cool guy!

(Shout out to Sam for being such an awesome best friend!)

Uhm, ok. Back to the review.

Chess Records was founded in Chicago by Leonard Chess and his brother back in the mid 1950s. The record label featured Black artists and catered primarily to Black audiences until the arrival of rock and roll pioneer, Chuck Berry and other artists. The movie specifically pointed that out as well as made sure it credited the proper musicians for initially creating a sound that was manufactured and commercialized.

Before Elvis wiggled a hip or did a pelvic thrust, there was Little Walter, Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters. To that end, the movie mentioned a lot of the historical aspects of that era but didn’t dig deeper. For instance, Etta James’ drug abuse was skimmed over for the most part with the exception of a well-acted scene by Beyonce (Etta James) and Adrien Brody (Leonard Chess). Also, it gleamed over the troubles that Chuck Berry, played by Mos Def, had with underage girls, but did cover his well-publicized arrest.

My guess is that the film was done on a small budget; but nonetheless, the actors did a superb job and many of the newcomers showed a lot of promise. Jeffrey Wright (Muddy Waters) is one to watch, in my book, and Columbus Short (Little Walter) made me wonder why did he ever do movies like Stomp the Yard or Accepted. He clearly has a greater range and I would love to see him in more high level roles—now that I know he can really act.

Even Sasha Fierce herself (Beyonce) was a very convincing Etta James–she tapped into that sassy, cursing, druggie persona quite well. I mean, I enjoyed Beyonce in Dreamgirls and would like to see her do more acting and spend less time trying to come up with Girl Anthems.

I don’t want to spoil the movie for you. Do yourself a favor and go check it out for yourself. It was a great effort from female director Darnell Martin (I Like It Like That) and I expect to see more of her work in the coming years. Unfortunately, Hollywood is still not completely sold on financing good Black stories or supporting good Black directors, whether male or female. So, I may be holding my breath. Anyway, Cadillac Records had me tapping my feet and I’m sure you will too.

If you’ve seen it, let me know your thoughts.

About Chandra Kamaria

Chandra Kamaria is a playwright, essayist, culture maven, educator, entrepreneur, and activist. To learn more, visit


3 thoughts on “Cadillac Records, The Movie

  1. I loved it! It give me a greater appreciation for the artist before my time and the connection that we all share as a people.

    Posted by Donnell | December 15, 2008, 5:23 am
  2. wow!… i didn’t know how you were using my pix, but i love it!…i want2inspire…my dad in diabetic- he drinks a ton of those sodas…it’s funny how my dad is also in my works…i am working from a number of themes in my work…”not slave,not free”,”thug-jesUS”,”women of the storm”,”love is our hope”&”love never fails!”…so know that we could all use a little “diet hope” in our life…hope with less sugar can’t be all bad,huh?…be blessed…

    Posted by frank d. robinson | December 17, 2008, 3:15 pm
  3. I havet o agree with the writer, It was “the best thing” that I have seen Ms. Beyonce (Sasha F.) do to date. She “needs” to stick to more “serious” roles of this nature. I thought the “entire” cast was excelllent, and the guys who played Muddy, Little Walter, and Howl’in Wolf, were just great!!! (smile) The Howl’in resembelence, of the gentleman who played him, was just “remarkable!!”

    I could see this film again, and again. I have been “recommending” it, since I saw it. (smile) I will say, that I know there is a “lot” of material to cover, and with that, the film would have been very long, but the “story/material” is so “extrodinary,” I would not have minded it and niether would the audience either. I would have like to have seen just a little more of the characters “drawn out” (perse), like Etta James, and ChucK Berry, just a little more. (smile) I still did not understand why Len Chess, was leaving his company. Too bad, he died trying to “leave” Chicago, (or Etta…hmm)??? Those were “hard times” for blacks and an “immigrants” from Poland, (so to speak)…

    Posted by Kim Clark | December 19, 2008, 10:41 pm

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