Mahogany Review

Thirty years after its release, Mahogany is still screened often... in gay bars. A minor camp classic starring Miss Diana Ross as a Chicago striver who claws her way to the top of the international high fashion scene, it's a mess of clich├ęs, faulty feminist logic, and uncountable costume changes that mainly serve to enable Ross's raging narcissism.

Drunk on adulation from her Oscar-nominated performance in Lady Sings the Blues three years earlier, how could Ross resist such a star vehicle, especially one that let her design her own costumes: a decision, by the way, that ranks up there with the Watergate break-in as one of the worst ideas of the 1970s? Even Cher must have averted her eyes.

Ross is Tracy, a department store secretary with a flair for fashion design. Her Jesse Jacksonesque boyfriend Brian (Billy Dee Williams and his moustache) is a local bleeding-heart pol who agitates in the slums with a bullhorn.

Tracy's humdrum life takes a turn when her store hires noted fashion photographer Sean McEvoy (Anthony Perkins) to shoot an ad campaign. When one of the models doesn't work out, he drags Tracy into the action, and soon she's vogueing with the best of him. Sean and Brian later meet when Sean brings his high fashion models to the slums to shoot them alongside authentic bag ladies. Brian is appalled. Tracy is dazzled. Soon, Sean is making Tracy all kinds of big promises, and before you can say "Colt 45... works every time," Brian is eating Tracy's dust as she packs a bag and follows Sean to Rome, which was apparently more of a fashion capital back in the disco era than it is now.

Tracy is willing to sleep with Sean as payback for his favors, but he turns out to be impotent, and we soon learn that he's also a little bit, well, psycho. (Anthony Perkins was always the most interesting person in any film in which he appeared.) Tracy gets busy tending to his touchy ego while also churning out the first of her fashions, appalling frocks based on themes such as butterflies, Cleopatra, and worst of all, Kabuki theater.

At a charity fashion show, Mahogany's atrocious kimono, modeled by Mahogany herself, is greeted with hoots of derision until a continental count (Jean-Pierre Aumont) pays a whopping price for it. He soon sets Mahogany up in her own atelier (it's big fun to watch the bitchy Ross tear into her Italian seamstresses), but there's trouble when Brian shows up to check on her and Sean's various jealousies come to a dangerous boiling point. Soon Sean and Brian are both out of the picture, and Tracy is left to wallow in a miserable cloud of chiffon and satin swatches.

Mahogany's tag line is "Success means nothing unless you have someone you love to share it with," a nice sentiment but one that rings false when (spoiler alert) Tracy finally throws away all her success to be by the side of her man. Feminists must have hurled their Earth Shoes at the screen when they saw this dreck.

In the end, we're left with a beautiful theme song ("Do You Know Where You're Going To?") and fun memories of Zoolander-like fashion shoot montages. All Diana Ross was left with was a bulging closet full of unwearable clothes.


Facts and Figures

Run time: 109 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 25th March 1976

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Production compaines: AGK Productions, Toronto Film Challenge

Reviews 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 23%
Fresh: 3 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 6.0 / 10

Cast & Crew


Starring: Helene Androlia as Janet, Andrew Gardner as Brian, Peter Steven as 1. Kidnapper, Mike Arnott as 2. Kidnapper