Imagine what it would feel like to be the only black television star in Hollywood at a time when the Ku Klux Klan acted out violently against black people, when America groaned under the ...
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Imagine what it would feel like to be the only black television star in Hollywood at a time when the Ku Klux Klan acted out violently against black people, when America groaned under the weight of segregation and prejudice. Imagine being in possession of a natural talent so great, so unique and disarming that these issues were seemingly swept to one side to allow you to perform and be acknowledged for this gift, yet behind closed doors they were trying to think of a way to package you as something you were not: white. This candid account of the actual happenings in and around the "fairytale" life of fame and fortune of Nat King Cole, are taken from the private journals of Nat King Cole and exclusive interviews with the widow of Nat King Cole, Maria Cole, as well as contributions from other family members, Tony Bennett, Buddy Greco, Harry Bellafonte, Nancy Wilson, Sir Bruce Forsythe, George Benson, Aaron Neville, Johnny Mathis and many more. Some of these shocking stories have never ...Written by
It doesn't seem the right word but Nat King Cole was arguably the first black superstar and is certainly worth a screen biography, but this powder-puff tribute overdoes the schmaltz and straightens up and flies right, to coin a phrase, whenever anything slightly contentious appears in the narrative.
There's plenty of entertaining film footage of King in his classic, laid back style and there's no denying his artistry both as singer and initially jazz pianist. In the time-honoured tradition of screen biographies, noted contemporaries like Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett and Nancy Wilson all line up to speak warmly of the man and his undoubted musical legacy, although they're all prone to hyperbole at times. All through the film we're told that Cole was a veritable saint amongst men, until we later learn that his first marriage failed, that his original group objected to the imposed name change from the Nat Cole trio to Nat Cole and His trio and later that Mr Family Man extraordinaire had an affair not long before he died - no details of which are forthcoming, in fact blink and you'll miss the reference completely. Fleeting reference is also made to his adopted son who we're told in a screen pop-up, died in his 30's with no explanation of any kind (I have since learned he died of AIDS).
I could also have done without the Natalie Cole Show insert lauding her "Unforgettable" album of duets with dad, while the most shocking item in the whole documentary was the image of Cole "whited-up" for US WASP TV consumption, but again no background to this disgusting condescension is provided, such as the sponsor who insisted on it or even Cole's reaction to it. For all his supporters praise of his Gandhi-like passive non-resistance to the racism he undoubtedly experienced especially in the American South, this submission to the demands of white TV hardly casts Cole in a good light. Maybe it's just the reactionary in me but I'd have thought a little more of the man if he had spoken out against the discrimination he suffered rather than forever turn the other cheek. Even when attacked on stage in Alabama he can't bring himself to be anything other than blandly condescending about the incident to the reporters of the day.
Nat King Cole was a wonderful song-stylist and musician and by all accounts a decent man living in difficult times but he wasn't perfect and this over-adulatory biography whitewashes Cole's interesting life just as surely as the offending TV show mentioned earlier.
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