Little Richard (film)
|Directed by||Robert Townsend|
|Produced by||Iain Peterson|
|Written by||Bill Kerby
|Music by||Velton Ray Bunch|
|Editing by||Sabrina Plisco
|Original airing||February 20, 2000|
|Running time||120 minutes|
Little Richard is a 2000 biographical NBC TV movie written by Bill Kerby and Daniel Taplitz and directed by Robert Townsend. Based on the 1984 book, Quasar of Rock: The Life and Times of Little Richard, it chronicles the rise of American musical icon Little Richard from his poor upbringing in Macon, Georgia to achieving superstardom as one of the pioneers of rock and roll music and his conflicts between his religion and secular lifestyle, which leads to an early retirement following a 1957 tour of Australia, and later a comeback to secular performing during a concert in London in 1962.
The cast includes Leon as Little Richard Penniman, Jenifer Lewis as Richard's mother Leva Mae, or as she's listed in the movie credits, Muh Penniman, Carl Lumbly as Richard's stern father, Charles "Bud" Penniman, Tamala Jones as Richard's girlfriend Lucille (actually Audrey Robinson), Garrett Morris as Richard's preacher Carl Rainey and Mel Jackson as legendary producer Robert "Bumps" Blackwell.
Differences from noted events
Though most of the scenes in the film was accurate to how Richard described them, some characters were fictionalized for dramatic purposes:
- In a scene when Little Richard is seen cutting his first recording in 1951 (cited as 1952 in the film sequence), the film plays Penniman's version of "By the Light of the Silvery Moon". In truth, Penniman didn't record "By the Light" until after signing with Specialty Records in 1956. His first single, in fact, was a slower blues ballad titled "Every Hour" for RCA Records. For possible recording copyright purposes, "Every Hour" wasn't allowed to be used for the film.
- Another scene in which Penniman performs "Money Honey" around the 1952 date was also fictionalized, as Penniman wouldn't record that song until 1964 during his Vee-Jay Records run and the original version of "Money Honey", recorded by The Drifters, wouldn't be released until 1954.
- In the scene where Penniman performs at a bar after a break during his first Specialty session, Penniman begins singing (in Leon's own vocals) the opening line in "Tutti Frutti" as "a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-good-hot-damn". Penniman contends that he had never used "hot damn" in the original version with its "good booty" lyric.
- Tamala Jones' character of Lucille was actually a doppelganger for Penniman's real-life girlfriend, Audrey Robinson, who later charmed as a stripper under the stage name Lee Angel. In the film, "Lucille" is shown onstage with Penniman dancing sultry especially during performances of "Keep A-Knockin'".
Awards and nominations
- Black Reel Awards
- Nominated (Network/Cable - Best Actor) - Leon
- NAACP Image Awards
- Nominated (Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special) - Leon
- Emmy Awards
- Nominated (Outstanding Music Direction) - David Sibley