“Cabin in the Sky” is a wonderful Black Classic Movie starring Ethel Waters, Lena Horne and Eddie Anderson.
The story is about the classic struggle between good and evil.
In this case, the person struggling is Little Joe (Eddie Anderson). He must choose between staying with his loving, god-fearing wife Petunia (Ethel Waters) or leaving her for a life of gambling with Sweet Georgia Brown (Lena Horne).
The temptation is great, but because of his devoted wife’s prayers, Little Joe has a chance to do the right thing. Can he?
Successful Broadway Musical Before Becoming a Movie
“Cabin in the Sky” was a Broadway musical before it was made into a movie. The stage version of “Cabin in the Sky” was so successful that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) decided to buy the movie rights and make it into a film.
To help ensure the movie’s success, MGM decided to use popular, well-known African-American stars in the film. At the top of the list were Ethel Waters, Lena Horne and Eddie Anderson.
Ethel Waters stars as Petunia
Ethel Waters starred in the Broadway production and received enormous praise for her role as Petunia. Waters was already a celebrity because of her successful singing career and performances in other Broadway plays. Thus, she was a natural choice to play the role of Petunia in the movie version.
Lena Horne stars as Sweet Georgia Brown
Lena Horne was also a natural choice for the part as the beautiful and sexy Sweet Georgia Brown. Horne was the most glamorous female African-American star of the time and was already under contract with MGM. In her autobiography, “Lena”, Horne says that part of the reason why MGM gave her a movie contract was because they thought that she would be perfect for the role of Sweet Georgia Brown.
Eddie "Rochester" Anderson stars as Little Joe
Eddie Anderson was also a major 1940s African-American star. He was well-known for his role as “Rochester” on The Jack Benny Show and was one of the few African-American entertainers to have an ongoing contract with a major show. (Click here to read a related article about Eddie Rochester Anderson.) Anderson’s natural comedic style and enormous popularity made him a great choice to star as Little Joe in “Cabin in the Sky.”
Many Other Famous Black Stars of the 1940s
But the talent in “Cabin in the Sky” doesn’t end with Ethel Waters, Lena Horne and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson. There are many other famous African-American performers in this film including acting greats Rex Ingram, Butterfly McQueen and Mantan Moreland.
Moreover, since “Cabin in the Sky” is a musical, there are special appearances in the movie by musical giants Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.
Unfortunately, Louis Armstrong has a small part as one of LuciferJr.’s minions named the Trumpeteer. Thus, his enormous talent is not displayed as much as it could have been in “Cabin in the Sky.”
However, Duke Ellington and His Orchestra perform multiple songs in “Cabin in the Sky.” Most memorable is a scene when the movie character Domino Johnson (John “Bubbles” Sublet) sings a song named “Shine” while Duke Ellington and His Orchestra play in the background.
"Shine" from Cabin in the Sky with
Duke Ellington and His Orchestra and Sky Bubbles
Duke Ellington and His Orchestra also play four songs on the “Cabin in the Sky” movie soundtrack. (Purchase information for this soundtrack is below.)
Rare Hollywood Made All-Black Cast Film
Hollywood studios made very few all-Black cast movies during the 1930s and 1940s. In fact, “Cabin in the Sky” was only the fourth all-Black cast film to be made by a major Hollywood studio. (The other three were “Hallelujah”, “The Green Pastures” and “Hearts in Dixie.”)
“Cabin in the Sky” does contain some African-American racial stereotypes that were in prevalent in the 1940s. Nevertheless, the talented and professional entertainers in the movie rise above these stereotypes, consequently making them less objectionable than they would have otherwise been.
Enjoyable, Funny, Light-Hearted
“Cabin in the Sky” is an enjoyable, funny and light-hearted film. The storyline also has a good moral tone to it – one that viewers with a Christian background will particularly appreciate.
A rare movie for its time, “Cabin in the Sky” is a must-see movie for all classic Black film lovers!