Cabin in the Sky at the Brooks 

From his office at the top of the sparkling new Lincoln American Tower, Lloyd T. Binford must have felt like a god, looking down on all the little people so far down below him, judging their puny weaknesses. Although he had little formal education and no special affinity for the arts, in 1921 Binford, an insurance-industry millionaire, was tapped by Mayor E.H. Crump to lead the newly formed Memphis Censor Board, which was created to "supervise, regulate, or prohibit any entertainment of immoral, lewd, or lascivious character, as well as performances inimical to the public safety, health, morals, or welfare."

click to enlarge “Banned in Memphis” at the Brooks Museum
  • “Banned in Memphis” at the Brooks Museum

In Binford's case, that meant everything from films by the "London guttersnipe" Charlie Chaplin to anything depicting a train robbery because they triggered bad memories of his own brief service in the railroad industry. Anything too sexy, too violent, too train-robby, or too liberal in its depiction of Jesus was destined to be "Binfordized." Lloyd T. was also highly suspicious of any film threatening contemporary racial paradigms. That's what got Vincente Minnelli's lush film adaptation of Cabin in the Sky, a musical starring Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, and an all-African-American cast, banned in Memphis.

Cabin in the Sky, screening at the Brooks Museum this week as part of its ongoing "Banned in Memphis" series, tells the story of Joe, a compulsive gambler who dies young, is prayed back from the brink of Hell by his wife, and is sorely tested by temptress supreme, Georgia Brown. Though progressive in the 1940s, Minnelli's Hollywood debut is a little paternalistic. It's also an antecedent of the popular gospel musical genre and an extraordinary artifact for fans of the featured performers, particularly Duke Ellington's orchestra and Waters, who laid down definitive renditions of "Taking a Chance on Love" and "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe."

Favorite

Tags:

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

Music Blog

MonoNeon Featured in Bandcamp Daily

Hungry Memphis

Parade Kicks Off Hot Wing Festival

Style Sessions

Fashion Week Kickoff in Memphis

News Blog

Memphis Students Protest Gun Violence With Walkout

Fly On The Wall Blog

Wikipedia edit trolls the Tennessee House of Representatives

Hungry Memphis

The Return of Sleep Out Louie's

News Blog

Memphians Respond to State Punishment Over Statues

News Blog

Memphians Rally to Replenish Punishment Funds

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Chris Davis

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation