Sunday, December 23, 2018
The 12 Days of Mantan Moreland: Tall, Tan, and Terrific (1946)
Nightclub owner Handsome Harry is being bothered by Duke, a notorious gang owner who desires both Harry's club The Golden Pearl and his star act Tall, Tan, and Terrific. Harry is pushed to the edge, and Duke ends up shot dead, but Harry swears he's not responsible. His stalwart comedian friend Mantan is convinced of his innocence and sets out to find the real killer...
Tall, Tan, and Terrific is a great title, but I'm sad to say this picture does not live up to it. The first 10+ minutes are just variety acts, we get a small plot in the middle, and the last 10+ minutes are more variety acts. It's not that said performances are bad, but the plot is so minimal. The movie's only 42 minutes long, and the story takes even more of a backseat than you'd imagine, taking up only a fraction of that already massively reduced length.
The concept behind the plot is pretty neat on paper. Mantan Moreland, playing himself, has to solve a murder! Who wouldn't pay to see that?! He doesn't actually do that much sleuthing though, only looking at one picture that he didn't even find or take himself, which allows him to immediately work out the killer's identity. That snapshot is the only clue, and it's quite hard to make out given the crappy picture quality of the film.
The reveal of the murderer is nonexistent, as is their apprehension, happening entirely offscreen, Who they are and why they killed Duke is also of little importance. The titular lady does very little either, scarpering as soon as the murder is committed, and only returning once the movie's practically over.
The dialogue is amusingly hip or unhip, depending on your preferences, with lines like "Dig ya later!".
The dancing, music, and singing on display here is alright. It's not the greatest, but none of it was awful. Moreland gets a pretty funny stand-up routine, though the low quality of the print I watched made it a little hard to understand. The sort-of musical number he gets at the end was a bit annoying, what with the weird laughing or hicupping that kept interrupting it. The in-universe humour isn't as good either, like the constant assertions that the girl dogging Mantan's heels (and supplies the major clue) is ugly, when she's in fact a good lookin' babe!
Tall, Tan, and Terrific is recommended if you're an aficionado of African-American cinema and general talent from this time period, and carries far more importance as that sort of a time capsule than it does as a movie...