An extended trailer for the new rendition of “Annie” hitting theaters this Christmas, starring Jamie Foxx and “Beasts of The Southern Wild” actress Quvenzhané Wallis, was released yesterday. It’s the latest in a long line of cinematic revisions with predominantly Black casts or Afro-centric twists. While the new “Annie” has already garnered its fair share of controversy, this isn’t the first time a story already told has been transposed onto the African-American experience. Here’s nine other examples.
Carmen Jones (1954)
Led by Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge in the title role, “Carmen Jones” is an adaptation of the opera “Carmen.” This rendition of the doomed love story continued to blaze the same trail as black-cast musicals of the early 1900s like “Stormy Weather” and “Cabin in the Sky.”
Carmen: A Hip-Hopera (2001)
Another adaptation of “Carmen,” this time starring Beyoncé in her acting debut. This version of Carmen, produced for MTV, contextualized the story for a whole new generation with Mos Def, Mekhi Phifer, Lil’ Bow Wow, Rah Digga, and Jermaine Dupri and an original score by Kip Collins.
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Disney finally came around to giving the world its first African-American princess in 2009 with this adaptation of “The Frog Prince.” Set in 1920s New Orleans, the film follows Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), a waitress who masquerades as a princess for a night and encounters a prince who’s been turned into a frog by an evil voodoo practitioner (Keith David). The film marked Disney’s return to hand-drawn animation after a five year hiatus following “Home On The Range” and they came back in style.
A very loose adaptation of “The Great Gatsby,” “G” told the story of the titular hip-hop mogul Summer G, played by Richard T. Jones, attempting to win back Sky (Chenoa Maxwell), the love of his life he lost so many years ago. A low-key affair, but memorable for its performance, including Blair Underwood as Sky’s new lover.
The Wiz (1978)
“The Wiz” brought Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, and others together for a re-telling of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” set in a bedazzled New York City. Though it was a critical and box office bust upon its initial release and marked the end of the then rising African-American presence in mainstream film following blaxploitation, “The Wiz” has acquired a cult following over the years with catchy songs, beautiful production design, and memorable turns from Ross as Dorothy, Jackson as the Scarecrow, and Pryor as the titular Wiz.
The Nutty Professor (1996)
Eddie Murphy’s adaptation of the 1963 Jerry Lewis film of the same name follows university professor Sherman Klump (Murphy) as he tests an experimental weight loss formula on himself. Murphy played seven characters in the film, including most of the Klump family.
Deliver Us From Eva (2003)
Gabrielle Union and LL Cool J starred in this adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” A trio of guys attempting to woo triplets enlist the help of LL’s smooth operator to date and distract Eva (Union), the perfectionist sister who meddles in every aspect of their lives.
Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales For Every Child: Jack and The Beanstalk (1995)
HBO Family ran an anthology series entitled “Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales For Every Child” that put new spins on several classic fairy tales. The first of these was an adaptation of Jack and The Beanstalk that featured voice work from Harry Belafonte, Wayne Collins, Pauletta Washington, and Tone Loc.
I Am Legend (2007)
Based on the 1954 novel of the same name, itself adapted into two films prior (“The Last Man on Earth” and “The Omega Man”), this Will Smith-starring vehicle featured Smith as scientist Robert Neville, who appears to be the last surviving human on Earth after a virus meant to cure cancer turns humanity into vampires.
I Think I Love My Wife (2007)
An adaptation of the 1972 French film “Chloe In The Afternoon,” Chris Rock stars as Richard Cooper, a man happily married to Brenda (Gina Torres), but whose marriage is tested by the reappearance of an old friend named Nikki (Kerry Washington). Directed, produced, starring, and co-written by Rock (the other writer being Louis C.K., who also wrote and directed “Pootie Tang”), “I Think I Love My Wife” wasn’t loved by most people because of the condescending nature it had toward women and was a box office non-starter.
Dylan “CineMasai” Green is a movie geek, hip-hop aficionado, and pita chip enthusiast. Find him on Twitter.
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