Mahogany Movie 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 clichés, 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.


LOVLEY7000's picture


How smug! no this movie is not the Godfather! or To kill a Mocking bird..., or eve Lady sings the blues . However it was something very special to black people . "You people" are so arrogant it's ridiculous. I mean consider this . The African American body of work (film) pales in comparison to that of our caucasian counterparts . So while you are merely looking at it with you nose up the moons rear . Your missing the simple fact, that movie showcased one of the few world wide black stars of the day. Which in and of it's self was fabulous. but the story was good and the movie was entertaining. And some people wonder why there has to be black television stations and black magazines and black collages. The overall tone of your review was pure snobfoolery ...and it made me sad

5 years 10 months ago
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laylay's picture


The person who wrote this review has no idea just how much this movie inspired young woman when it first came out, I was a young girl growing up in harlem and times where hard this movie was inspireing it gave you hope it allowed you to see that a young black woman could make it out of the ghetto and if you dared to dream and beleive in yourself you could make it no matter what your goal may be, you have to remember this movie came at a time when black people as a whole where still fighting for recognition, and at that time woman like Tyra Banks, Naomi Cambell did not exsist, a black woman becomeing a top fashion model was only a dream,but this movie made you beleive that it was possiable and as far as the phrase sucess is nothing without some one to share it with, if you dont have some one who truly loves you not what you have or what you can do for them or where you can send them on vacation haha. then you have nothing. people have forgotten what true love is, everything has become so commercial. she loved him more than the fame and with out him she was empty trapped with a man that she didnt love just to futher her career. and trust me there are so many young black woman who can relate to that includeing myself. she was famous but she was empty, and shse went back to the one thing that was real in her life instead of all the fake love money buys. I think it was a wonderful movie,

7 years 8 months ago
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Mahogany Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG, 1975


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