After her acclaimed film debut in Lady Sings The Blues, Diana Ross created another powerful characterization as Mahogany, and ambitious young secretary who becomes a high fashion model and world famous designer. This dramatic love story filmed in Chicago and Rome also stars Billy Dee Williams, her electric co-star in Lady Sings The Blues, as the Chicago politician who falls in love with her. Anthony Perkins is at his best portraying a malevolent fashion photographer who masterminds, then tries to sabotage, Mahogany's career.
One simple question, people: Do you know where you're goin' to? And furthermore, Do you like the things that life is showin' you? These questions are posed in the unavoidable theme song (a huge Seventies hit) from Mahogany
, a splashy, diva-sized vehicle for Diana Ross. Miss Ross was hot off her unexpected and critically approved starring role in Lady Sings the Blues
when she embarked on this musical, a rags-to-riches saga of a Chicago girl who dreams of being a fashion designer but becomes a supermodel instead. Original director Tony Richardson was replaced behind the camera by Motown founder and puppetmaster supreme Berry Gordy, who knew something about turning Ross into an idealized vision of femininity (for more on their relationship, check out the fictionalized version in Dreamgirls
Ross looks a little overwhelmed by the plot machinations, which take her from the orbit of a regular-guy activist (Billy Dee Williams) into the glam world of European fashion--the latter courtesy of a cranky, unstable photographer played by Anthony Perkins. Perkins is sky-high fun in this thing, as though he suspected the movie was in trouble and decided to let the tics and nerviness fly. These days Mahogany is treasured either as a fond childhood memory or as a ripe camp-fest, and that's probably about where it belongs. Still, it looks positively restrained next to the other big diva musical of the same historical moment, Barbra Streisand's 1976 A Star is Born. --Robert Horton