Classic Cinema #30: Amazing Grace (1974) – By Jason S. Lockard

This month we begin a new series of articles looking at the golden age of African-Americans on film. Over the next three months we will look at three great Soul Cinema films and three great black actors and we start it all off with 1974’s Amazing Grace and the star of the month the one the only Moms Mabley!

Jackie "Moms" Mabley was born Loretta Mary Aiken, March 19, 1894 in Brevard, North Carolina on of twelve children to Mary and James Aiken who owned and operated several businesses. When she was just eleven her father died an accident as a consequence in 1910, her mother picked up the primary business, a general store.

According to D. Richmond by the age of fifteen, Loretta had been raped twice and had two children who were given up for adoption. Her stepfather was pressuring her to marry a much older man and her grandmother encouraged her to strike out on her own, Loretta ran away to Cleveland, Ohio with a traveling minstrel show, where she began singing and entertaining, thus her career in show business began.

Loretta took her stage name, Jackie Mabley, from an early boyfriend, saying, "he’d taken so much from me, it was the least I could do to take his name." She came out as a lesbian at the age of twenty-seven, becoming one of the first triple-X rated comedians on the comedy circuit. Mabley was one of the top women stand-up comedians in her heyday earning $10,000 a week at Harlem’s Apollo Theater at the height of her career and would recorded more than 20 albums of comedy routines.

Later Jackie became known as "Moms" because she was indeed a "Mom" to many other comedians on the circuit in the 1950s and ’60s. Moms Mabley was billed as "The Funniest Woman in the World" and in 1975 Moms Mabley would star in our film for this month "Amazing Grace".

Amazing Grace written by Matt Robinson and directed by Stan Lathan; follows an elderly, church-goin’ widow and grandma named Grace [Mabley] from the hood of Baltimore. Grace just happens to live next door to a shady politician named Welton J. Walters [Moses Gunn] who is nothing more than the white man’s pawn.

What does every good Mayoral Candidate need?! Answer a sharp-tongued granny from the hood, and Grace fits the bill! She has a mouth that could take on the devil himself and even greater evil…. politics! Now Welton J. Walters hits the campaign trail with his new campaign manager The Amazing Grace! While this movie can be a bit disjointed at times, it still a very funny film with a great message.

One of Moms’ regular themes in her stand-up was a romantic interest in handsome young men rather than old "washed-up geezers," and she got away with it courtesy of her stage persona, where she appeared as a toothless woman in a house dress and floppy hat. Moms Mabley became the oldest person ever to have a US Top 40 hit. Moms Mabley died on May 23, 1975 in White Plains, New York of heart failure.

So do yourself a favor and rent or pick up a copy of Amazing Grace and enjoy the unbelievably funny Moms Mabley. Until next month when we bring you another Soul Cinema classic, this is Jason Lockard reminding you if you want to see a good film check out a classic!

Moral Rating: Nothing Offensive
Audience: All Audiences
Genre: Comedy / Drama
Length: 1 hr. 37 min.
Released: 1974
Our Rating: B-