Cabin in the Sky (1943)

98 mins | Musical | 9 April 1943

Director:

Vincente Minnelli

Writer:

Joseph Schrank

Producer:

Arthur Freed

Cinematographer:

Sidney Wagner

Editor:

Harold F. Kress

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

Actors Ethel Waters and Rex Ingram appeared in the 1940 Broadway production of Cabin in the Sky and reprised their roles for this film. The Broadway production also starred Katherine Dunham, Dooley Wilson and Todd Duncan. An Apr 1942 HR news item noted that M-G-M purchased the film rights to the musical play for $40,000, and that the producers of the Broadway show lost $25,000 during its New York run. Cabin in the Sky marked Vincente Minnelli's first comprehensive screen directorial assignment. Prior to this film, Minnelli had directed stage shows and individual musical numbers in two Judy Garland films. Although some modern sources refer to Cabin in the Sky as Lena Horne's first film, she actually made her motion picture debut in the 1938 Million Dollar Production The Duke Is Tops (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.1147) and had also appeared in the 1942 M-G-M film Panama Hattie (see below).
       According to a Jul 1942 HR news item, writer Marc Connelly contributed to the screenplay by "bending the storyline to make 'Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe' a plot point." Modern sources list Eustace Cocrell as a contributor to the screenplay, and note that Busby Berkeley directed one of the film's musical numbers. An early Aug 1942 HR news item noted that Gene Kelly was set to direct dances, but his participation in the final film is unlikely. Although news items in HR announced that Paul Robeson was being considered for a starring role, and that Cab Calloway was set for an ... More Less

Actors Ethel Waters and Rex Ingram appeared in the 1940 Broadway production of Cabin in the Sky and reprised their roles for this film. The Broadway production also starred Katherine Dunham, Dooley Wilson and Todd Duncan. An Apr 1942 HR news item noted that M-G-M purchased the film rights to the musical play for $40,000, and that the producers of the Broadway show lost $25,000 during its New York run. Cabin in the Sky marked Vincente Minnelli's first comprehensive screen directorial assignment. Prior to this film, Minnelli had directed stage shows and individual musical numbers in two Judy Garland films. Although some modern sources refer to Cabin in the Sky as Lena Horne's first film, she actually made her motion picture debut in the 1938 Million Dollar Production The Duke Is Tops (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.1147) and had also appeared in the 1942 M-G-M film Panama Hattie (see below).
       According to a Jul 1942 HR news item, writer Marc Connelly contributed to the screenplay by "bending the storyline to make 'Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe' a plot point." Modern sources list Eustace Cocrell as a contributor to the screenplay, and note that Busby Berkeley directed one of the film's musical numbers. An early Aug 1942 HR news item noted that Gene Kelly was set to direct dances, but his participation in the final film is unlikely. Although news items in HR announced that Paul Robeson was being considered for a starring role, and that Cab Calloway was set for an "important" role opposite Waters, neither Calloway nor Robeson appeared in the film. Various news items in HR list actors Raymond Turner , Clinton Rosemond and Napoleon Whiting in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       According to an Apr 1942 HR news item, this picture was to have been the first of three M-G-M "all-Negro" musicals. M-G-M considered producing a second all-black cast film, a motion picture version of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess , but made no additional all-black cast films. Cabin in the Sky featured only two songs from the original stage musical, "Taking a Chance on Love" and "Cabin in the Sky." One musical number written especially for the picture, "I Gotta Song," was removed from the film before its release. According to modern sources, the film cost approximately $680,000, making it one of producer Arthur Freed's least expensive musicals of the 1940s. Modern sources note that prominent caricaturist Al Hirschfeld designed posters for the picture. The song "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe" was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Song. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jun 43
p. 215.
Box Office
13 Feb 1943.
---
Daily Variety
10 Feb 43
pp. 3-4.
Film Daily
15 Feb 43
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Apr 1942.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 42
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 42
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 42
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Oct 42
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 43
p. 4.
Motion Picture Daily
10 Feb 1943.
---
Motion Picture Herald
13 Feb 1943.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 Feb 43
p. 1157.
New York Times
28 Mar 43
p. 19.
Variety
10 Feb 43
p. 8.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Eddie "Rochester" Anderson
John W. "Bubbles" Sublett
Ford L. "Buck" Washington
and His Orchestra
The Hall Johnson Choir
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Assoc
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Assoc
Men's cost
MUSIC
Mus adpt
Mus dir
Choral arr
SOUND
Rec dir
DANCE
Dance dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Unit prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the musical Cabin in the Sky , book by Lynn Root, lyrics by John Latouche, music by Vernon Duke, as produced by Albert Lewis in association with Vinton Freedley (New York, 25 Oct 1940).
MUSIC
"Going Up" by Duke Ellington.
SONGS
"Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe," "Life's Full O' Consequence" and "Li'l Black Sheep," music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by E. Y. Harburg
"Cabin in the Sky" and "Honey in the Honeycomb," music by Vernon Duke, lyrics by John Latouche
"Taking a Chance on Love," music by Vernon Duke, lyrics by John Latouche and Ted Fetter.
DETAILS
Release Date:
9 April 1943
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 27 March 1943
Production Date:
31 August--29 October 1942
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
9 February 1943
Copyright Number:
LP11861
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
98
Length(in feet):
8,862
Country:
United States
PCA No:
8964
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Hopeful that her gambling, ne'er-do-well husband Little Joe Jackson has finally reformed, Petunia suggests that he have Rev. Green burn his dice and release the devil's hold on him. A religious woman and loving wife, Petunia is heartened by Little Joe's promise to repent his sins in church. Little Joe soon resumes his gambling, however, when gambler Domino Johnson entices him to return to the casino at Jim Henry's Paradise Café. Petunia later goes in search of Little Joe, only to discover that he has been shot in a gunfight at the Paradise Café. As Petunia prays over her wounded husband, Lucifer, Jr., the ghost of Little Joe's friend Lucius, enters the room and orders Little Joe to "report to duty." Little Joe does not believe that he is dying until Lucifer, Jr. and his three aides show him his lifeless body. When the General, responding to Petunia's prayers, suddenly appears in the room, Lucifer, Jr. engages him in a battle for Little Joe's soul. While Sgt. Fleetfoot is sent by the General to get a judgment on Little Joe's case from the Lord, Lucifer, Jr. predicts that Little Joe's involvement with vamp Georgia Brown will result in his banishment to Hell. The Lord determines that Little Joe is not fit for Heaven, but he permits Little Joe to return to Earth for six months and prove his worth. With no recollection of his meeting with the Lord or Lucifer, Jr., Little Joe regains consciousness and begins his six-month reprieve. Petunia believes her husband's recovery to be a miracle, but both she and Little Joe are unaware that Lucifer, Jr. and ... +


Hopeful that her gambling, ne'er-do-well husband Little Joe Jackson has finally reformed, Petunia suggests that he have Rev. Green burn his dice and release the devil's hold on him. A religious woman and loving wife, Petunia is heartened by Little Joe's promise to repent his sins in church. Little Joe soon resumes his gambling, however, when gambler Domino Johnson entices him to return to the casino at Jim Henry's Paradise Café. Petunia later goes in search of Little Joe, only to discover that he has been shot in a gunfight at the Paradise Café. As Petunia prays over her wounded husband, Lucifer, Jr., the ghost of Little Joe's friend Lucius, enters the room and orders Little Joe to "report to duty." Little Joe does not believe that he is dying until Lucifer, Jr. and his three aides show him his lifeless body. When the General, responding to Petunia's prayers, suddenly appears in the room, Lucifer, Jr. engages him in a battle for Little Joe's soul. While Sgt. Fleetfoot is sent by the General to get a judgment on Little Joe's case from the Lord, Lucifer, Jr. predicts that Little Joe's involvement with vamp Georgia Brown will result in his banishment to Hell. The Lord determines that Little Joe is not fit for Heaven, but he permits Little Joe to return to Earth for six months and prove his worth. With no recollection of his meeting with the Lord or Lucifer, Jr., Little Joe regains consciousness and begins his six-month reprieve. Petunia believes her husband's recovery to be a miracle, but both she and Little Joe are unaware that Lucifer, Jr. and the General will be talking to his conscience and battling for his soul. No sooner does Little Joe resume his daily life than his gambling pals, Jim Henry and Dude, who have been sent by Lucifer, Jr., try to tempt him into a game of dice. Petunia chases Jim and Dude away, but Lucifer, Jr. devises another scheme to distract Little Joe and make him backslide into Hell. Heeding the advice of those working at the Hotel Hades Idea Department, Lucifer, Jr. decides to corrupt Little Joe with riches, and sends him a winning lottery ticket. Little Joe's chances at getting into Heaven improve when he plans to use the money to buy Petunia a washing machine and a house, but when Georgia intervenes, Little Joe returns to the Paradise Café. Petunia succeeds in winning back her husband by going to the casino and singing better than Georgia, but before they leave, a gun battle ensues and Petunia and Little Joe are shot and killed. Furious at Lucifer, Jr.'s meddling, the General sends down a storm and wrecks the Paradise Café. In Purgatory, Petunia is told that she is eligible to pass through the Pearly Gates into Heaven, while Little Joe is rejected. It is only after Little Joe repents and the Lord vouches for him that the General reverses his decision and allows Little Joe to join his wife in Heaven. Moments after he is told of the decision, Little Joe realizes that his brush with the afterlife was all a dream, and vows to change his ways. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.