6 July 2007 | bkoganbing
Reconciliation And Hope
The one musical production of that batch of classics that the American Film Institute produced in 1973-1974 is this classic Kurt Weill-Maxwell Anderson adaption of Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country. Lost in the Stars is listed as a musical tragedy and that is an apt description. There are few laughs in this one.
There was a non-musical film of Cry the Beloved Country done in 1950 under British auspices that was shot in the Union of South Africa right under the noses of the apartheid government. Canada Lee was an impressive Stephen Kumalo in search of his runaway son in Johannesburg. Brock Peters ably fills those shoes and sings the Weill-Anderson songs magnificently.
Kumalo is a minister who's son Absalom, played by Clifton Davis, like his biblical namesake has grown up to be a major disappointment. While in Johannesburg he falls in with bad company, impregnates Melba Moore, and participates in an armed robbery gone bad where he shoots a wealthy white landowner's son. As it turns out the deceased was quite the liberal on race relations which complicates a difficult situation.
Still Peters does what he can to pick up the pieces of his tattered family and together with the father of the deceased try to mend their lives. The two are aching symbols of a country torn terribly apart by racism.
Weill's best known songs from Lost in the Stars are the title song and Our Little Grey House and Stay Well. Bing Crosby recorded both of the last two which are sung by Peters and Moore respectively on the film back when the show was in its first run on Broadway. Frank Sinatra did a superb version of Lost in the Stars on his album The Concert Sinatra and that song is sung by Peters in the film.
Brock Peters had done a revival of Lost in the Stars on Broadway in 1972 so we are lucky indeed to have his performance preserved on film.
Lost in the Stars was a tragic show that carried a message that men of good will can still live together despite the awful things we do to each other. Though Alan Paton died before the apartheid government finally fell, Brock Peters lived long enough to see the peaceful revolution of South Africa, remarkable as our own civil rights revolution or the change in government in India where whole societies did not raise the sword to create change.
The show is about reconciliation and hope and should not be missed.