ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE

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Release Date: May 09, 2003

Starring: William Bell, Jerry Butler, Isaac Hayes, Sam Moore, Wilson Pickett, Mary Wilson, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Sir Mack Rice, and The Chi-Lites

Genre: Documentary/Musical

Audience: Teenagers and adults REVIEWER:
Lisa A. Rice ONLY THE STRONG
SURVIVE opens with a grainy,
16mm film of a Wilson Pickett
concert, "the legend of soul."
Producer Roger Friedman
interviews Wilson after the
show and tells him that he's
making a film on all the
rhythm n' blues singers of the
good old Motown and Chicago
days. Pickett jokes with
Friedman, insisting that he's
a successful producer because
he's Jewish. Wilson shows off
his $6,000 suit back stage and
brags that many of his shirts
cost $1,000 each. Isaac Hayes
then interviews Sam Moore
("Soul Man") on a radio show.
The two laugh as they
reminisce about the many
decades they've been friends
in show biz. Isaac calls Sam
by his nickname, "Blessed."
Sam takes the production team
on a tour of his old stomping
grounds in the city of
Chicago, where he used to sell
cocaine and heroin, he says.
His wife tells the story of
how she realized one day that
it wasn't her husband but the
demons of drugs that were
messing up his life. She
decided to take control of
matters, including his money
and schedule, exercise some
tough love and fight the devil
on her husband's behalf. Sam
reiterates that his name is
blessed and that he is
grateful to be clean since the
early '80's. "Hallelujah,"
they say. Mary Wilson, or
"Queen Mary," is interviewed
next. She was one of the
original "Supremes" with Diana
Ross and now tours alone,
singing "Love Child" and the
other famous oldies with her
own backup singers. She talks
about how she's getting a
bachelor's degree at NYU now,
and how proud her parents
would be, as they never
learned to read or write. The
documentary goes on to
interview many of the old R&B
greats - William Bell, Jerry
Butler, the Chi-Lites, Ann
Peebles, Sir Mack Rice, Carla
Thomas, and Rufus Thomas. Many
of them still sing at concert
halls, and they all have great
stories to tell. One singer
tells about how he thought
Diana Ross was the most ugly
girl he'd ever met, and how he
and his friends would make her
ride in the back of the
station wagon. He laughs about
how ironic it is that she
turned out to be one of the
most beautiful women in
America. Another singer tells
the story about how he sang at
a concert and wandered into
the audience, only to find
Aretha Franklin hiding among
the fans. She obliged him by
getting up and singing with
him, making it a terrific
show. Friedman tours the old
Stax Records in Chicago, which
went bankrupt in 1975, but
which turned out many of the
great R&B stars throughout the
years. Some fun Otis Redding
footage shows the high energy
and appeal that country blues
and folk soul had on mid-20th
century America. The
Shadowlights are interviewed
and they talk about how much
they loved their colorful
uniforms of the 1970s. They
sing "Have You Seen Her?"
Finally, Jerry Butler, now in
politics as a Chicago Cook
County Commissioner, sings his
famous song, "Only the Strong
Survive." Screening at the
Sundance Film Festival last
year, and coming to U.S.
theatres in May, this
documentary highlights the
olden days with some rare old
footage and shows the present
- with its concerts, its
memories, and the bittersweet
passage of time that brings
ageing, sparser crowds, and
some regrets along the way.
Its grainy, 16-mm feel is
typical of most documentaries,
and the production quality is
very average, but the "story"
moves pretty well and
highlights some interesting
characters. With a mixture of
worldly and biblical outlooks,
the movie may have a narrow
appeal to only those
interested in rhythm and
blues, but those who do enjoy
the soul stars of yesterday
may find it
entertaining. Please address
your comments to: Bob and
Harvey
Weinstein Co-Chairmen Miramax
Films 375 Greenwich Street New
York, NY 10013 Phone:
323.822.4100 and 212.941.3800
Fax: 212.941.3846 Website:
www.miramax.com

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 95 minutes

Address Comments To:

Content:

(Pa, B, L, A, D, M) Mixed worldview with worldly portrayals of musicians running after stardom and worldly acclaim, many of them finding, however, that it's fleeting, and several biblical worldview portrayals with one singer's wife telling about keeping the devil out of her husband's life and thus freeing him from drugs, and some musicians saying things like, "God bless you, brother," and film's producer is interviewed and lauded for getting things done and getting into places because he's Jewish (hinting at the blessing of Abraham and the favor of God's chosen); about nine light obscenities, some within song lyrics; some mild portrayals of alcohol and smoking, with some portrayals and talk of drug history, but drug lifestyle is rebuked; and, questionable element when one of the singers pulls a large woman out the audience and dances with her, stomach to stomach.

GENRE: Documentary/Musical

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Summary:

ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE is a Sundance Film documentary on the lives of all the great rhythm and blues stars of yesterday - their past successes and failures, and what they're doing today. Though the film may have a narrow appeal, it moves along pretty well and highlights some interesting characters.

Review:

ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE opens with a grainy, 16mm film of a Wilson Pickett concert, "the legend of soul." Producer Roger Friedman interviews Wilson after the show and tells him that he's making a film on all the rhythm n' blues singers of the good old Motown and Chicago days. Pickett jokes with Friedman, insisting that he's a successful producer because he's Jewish. Wilson shows off his $6,000 suit back stage and brags that many of his shirts cost $1,000 each.

Isaac Hayes then interviews Sam Moore ("Soul Man") on a radio show. The two laugh as they reminisce about the many decades they've been friends in show biz. Isaac calls Sam by his nickname, "Blessed." Sam takes the production team on a tour of his old stomping grounds in the city of Chicago, where he used to sell cocaine and heroin, he says. His wife tells the story of how she realized one day that it wasn't her husband but the demons of drugs that were messing up his life. She decided to take control of matters, including his money and schedule, exercise some tough love and fight the devil on her husband's behalf. Sam reiterates that his name is blessed and that he is grateful to be clean since the early '80's. "Hallelujah," they say.

Mary Wilson, or "Queen Mary," is interviewed next. She was one of the original "Supremes" with Diana Ross and now tours alone, singing "Love Child" and the other famous oldies with her own backup singers. She talks about how she's getting a bachelor's degree at NYU now, and how proud her parents would be, as they never learned to read or write.

The documentary goes on to interview many of the old R&B greats - William Bell, Jerry Butler, the Chi-Lites, Ann Peebles, Sir Mack Rice, Carla Thomas, and Rufus Thomas. Many of them still sing at concert halls, and they all have great stories to tell. One singer tells about how he thought Diana Ross was the most ugly girl he'd ever met, and how he and his friends would make her ride in the back of the station wagon. He laughs about how ironic it is that she turned out to be one of the most beautiful women in America. Another singer tells the story about how he sang at a concert and wandered into the audience, only to find Aretha Franklin hiding among the fans. She obliged him by getting up and singing with him, making it a terrific show.

Friedman tours the old Stax Records in Chicago, which went bankrupt in 1975, but which turned out many of the great R&B stars throughout the years. Some fun Otis Redding footage shows the high energy and appeal that country blues and folk soul had on mid-20th century America. The Shadowlights are interviewed and they talk about how much they loved their colorful uniforms of the 1970s. They sing "Have You Seen Her?" Finally, Jerry Butler, now in politics as a Chicago Cook County Commissioner, sings his famous song, "Only the Strong Survive."

Screening at the Sundance Film Festival last year, and coming to U.S. theatres in May, this documentary highlights the olden days with some rare old footage and shows the present - with its concerts, its memories, and the bittersweet passage of time that brings ageing, sparser crowds, and some regrets along the way. Its grainy, 16-mm feel is typical of most documentaries, and the production quality is very average, but the "story" moves pretty well and highlights some interesting characters. With a mixture of worldly and biblical outlooks, the movie may have a narrow appeal to only those interested in rhythm and blues, but those who do enjoy the soul stars of yesterday may find it entertaining.

Please address your comments to:

Bob and Harvey Weinstein

Co-Chairmen

Miramax Films

375 Greenwich Street

New York, NY 10013

Phone: 323.822.4100 and 212.941.3800

Fax: 212.941.3846

Website: www.miramax.com

In Brief: