Mahogany (film)

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Movie poster by Bill Gold
illustrated by Bob Peak.
Directed byBerry Gordy
Written byBob Merrill
John Byrum
Story byToni Amber
Produced byJack Ballard
Rob Cohen
StarringDiana Ross
Billy Dee Williams
Jean-Pierre Aumont
Nina Foch
Beah Richards
Marisa Mell
Anthony Perkins
CinematographyDavid Watkin
Edited byPeter Zinner
Music byMichael Masser
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • October 8, 1975 (1975-10-08)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.5 million[1]
Box office$5,000,000 [2][better source needed]

Mahogany is a 1975 American romantic drama film directed by Berry Gordy and produced by Motown Productions. The Motown founder Gordy took over the film direction after British filmmaker Tony Richardson was dismissed from the film. Mahogany stars Diana Ross as Tracy Chambers, a struggling fashion design student who rises to become a popular fashion designer in Rome. Fresh from the success of Lady Sings the Blues, this film served as Ross' follow-up feature film. It was released on October 8, 1975.


Tracy Chambers (Diana Ross) is an industrious young woman living on the South Side of Chicago, who dreams of becoming a fashion designer and has worked her way up from salesgirl to assistant to the head buyer at a luxury department store (modeled after, and filmed at, Marshall Field's on State Street, in Chicago).[3] Her supervisor at the department store, Miss Evans (Nina Foch), believes that Tracy's night fashion courses will interfere with her responsibilities at the store. Her aunt, however, encourages her and visits prospective buyers, who inadvertently encourage Tracy by stating that her designs are good for Paris but not for Chicago.

One evening she is challenged by Brian Walker (Billy Dee Williams), a local activist fighting against gentrification in their community. He yells at a tired Tracy through his bullhorn and she gets in a shouting match with him. After an upstairs neighbor opens a can of beer and some of the foam falls on Tracy, everyone laughs, except for her.

Later, Sean McAvoy, a great fashion photographer, played by Anthony Perkins (based upon Richard Avedon, with whom Perkins studied for several months) comes to the department store to photograph models, all of whom are white, and with whom he is clearly dissatisfied. Sean mistakes Tracy for a new model, and creates an impromptu shoot with Tracy, featuring a rainbow-colored gown made by her aunt. Miss Evans interrupts the shoot. As Sean prepares to leave Chicago, he invites Tracy to Rome.

Tracy, again, encounters Brian during her walk to work and gets back at him for their previous encounter, and surreptitiously pours milk into his bullhorn's mouthpiece. When Brian picks it up, the milk splatters all over him. He assumes that one of the construction workers has played a prank on him and a huge fight begins. The police are called and Brian is arrested.

When Brian is released, he finds Tracy waiting for him outside the police station. She admits that she bailed him out of jail because she poured the milk into the bullhorn. She also tells him that she has written a bum check for his bail, and they quickly leave the precinct. Brian promises to return her money to her, but, Tracy states that she is not interested in him and that she was only relieving her guilty conscience for the misunderstanding which put him in jail. He insists that he will return the money. She tells him to put it in her door's mail slot.

One night, Tracy hears many coins being dropped through her door's mail slot. She opens the door and finds Brian is in the hallway. They begin a relationship and Brian becomes her boyfriend. Their relationship includes her assisting in his unsuccessful run for district office. Following an argument in which Brian insists Tracy gives up her dreams for his, Tracy receives a call from Sean to come to Rome. She agrees to become his next muse.

Sean reinvents Tracy as "Mahogany" and, ultimately, she becomes among the most in-demand fashion models. An uneasy relationship develops with Sean, who is possessive and jealous of anyone vying for Tracy's attention. He struggles to control Tracy sexually and artistically by discouraging her attempts to break away from modeling and further her design aspirations. Tracy, feeling she owes Sean a great deal for bringing her into a world where she has wealth and fame, reluctantly agrees to sleep with him. Sean's implied latent homosexuality makes the union a failure. Sean goes on to menace and threaten Brian during his visit to Rome. Brian fails to persuade Tracy to return home with him to support him in his political aspirations. During their next photo shoot on an elevated highway in an expensive sports car, Sean causes an accident in which he's killed and Tracy sustain severe injuries. A new, wealthy benefactor, Count Christian Rosetti (Jean-Pierre Aumont), lends Tracy his villa for her recovery and a studio space in which may finally create her own fashion label.

Because of the tremendous job pressures, Tracy becomes demanding and cruel to her employees. She is unwilling to express her appreciation to her new benefactor by becoming his mistress. She finds her career emotionally empty and not what she dreamed it would be without Brian's love and support. Following the tremendous success of her first collection, Tracy realizes that she must decide whether to continue with her empty life in Rome or return to the man she loves in Chicago, and use her talents to boost his political prospects.


Theme song[edit]

The film and its soundtrack include a Ross-sung theme song, "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)", which became a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976. It held the number-one spot for one week (January 18–January 24, 1976), replacing "I Write the Songs" by Barry Manilow and replaced by "Love Rollercoaster" by the Ohio Players. "Theme from Mahogany", written by Michael Masser and Gerald Goffin and produced by Masser, was the best-reviewed element of Mahogany[citation needed] and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The song was recorded by Mariah Carey in 1998 and by Sony Music labelmate Jennifer Lopez the following year.


Chart positions of the soundtrack
Chart (1976) Position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[4] 59


The film received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Song (Michael Masser, Gerry Goffin).

The film is recognized by the American Film Institute in this list:

Release and reception[edit]

Mahogany was released on VHS home video in the 1990s, and was issued on DVD on May 1, 2007.[citation needed]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 28% based on reviews from 18 critics.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Murphy, Mary (Jan 17, 1975). "MOVIE CALL SHEET: Gordy to Direct 'Mahogany'". Los Angeles Times. p. f18.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Mahogany and Marshall Field's
  4. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 282. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  5. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-05.
  6. ^ "Mahogany (1975)". Rotten Tomatoes.

External links[edit]