Little Richard (film)

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Little Richard
LittleRichard2000.jpg
Genre Biography, drama
Directed by Robert Townsend
Produced by Iain Peterson
Written by Bill Kerby
Daniel Taplitz
Starring Leon
Jenifer Lewis
Carl Lumbly
Tamala Jones
Mel Jackson
Garrett Morris
Music by Velton Ray Bunch
Editing by Sabrina Plisco
Marcelo Sansevieri
Country United States
Language English
Original channel NBC
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.

For his role as Penniman, Leon earned nominations for Best Actor in the Black Reel Awards and the NAACP Image Awards.

Differences from noted events[edit]

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[edit]

  • NAACP Image Awards
    • Nominated (Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special) - Leon
  • Emmy Awards
    • Nominated (Outstanding Music Direction) - David Sibley