Sparkle (1976)

Rated PG

In this typical success story that illustrates the hard struggle to transcend from nothing to something, Sparkle is the fictional account of the Williams sisters’ attempts to gain stardom and wealth.  Loosely inspired by the ascension of Motown musical group, The Supremes, this film presents the challenges and triumphs of the young ladies, as a singing trio, to succeed in the music industry.  Unlike Motown, which is in Detroit, Sparkle is set in the Harlem community in 1958 and centers around the relationship between three sisters: Sister (Lonette McKee), Deloris (Dwan Smith) and Sparkle (Irene Cara). 

Living in poverty, the sisters ultimately come to believe that becoming a musical act, complete with Stix (Philip Michael Thomas) and his cousin, Levi (Dorian Harewood), is the ticket out the ghetto and to a better life.  However, after several performances, it is clear that audiences really only want to see the sisters.  Stix, who is Sparkle’s boyfriend, realizes this and decides he and his cousin can instead just manage the group.  The girls would be known as “Sister and the Sisters” and they enjoy wins on the local nightclub scene.

However, there are serious obstacles, including drug abuse, abandonment, violence, crime and racial discrimination, facing the sisters.  Adding to the tension are Harlem gangster, Satin Struthers (Tony King), the boyfriend of Sister; the young ladies’ pious mother, Effie, (Mary Alice) and the possibility of the group becoming involved with the illegal practice of “payola”.  Effie works as a maid for Max Gerber (Paul Lambert), who has ties with a Mafia family.  She treats her daughters differently and disdainfully commands that they seek more stable employment.  Will Sister and the Sisters attain success or are they just chasing the fantasy of musical stardom?  You will have to see!

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