Dreamgirls, Hollywood does not tell real story of Motown and the Supremes


The Supremes

By Yuri Prasad:

Dreamgirls: a chance to film a Motown dream ruined by Hollywood

Widely hailed in the mainstream press, this film purports to tell the story of 1960s soul sensations The Supremes.

Any account of the rise of three young working class women from Detroit who, as part of Tamla Motown records, helped smash the racial divide in popular music ought to be great viewing.

But Dreamgirls is a great disappointment.

The film is a fictionalised account based on a 1980s musical.

And true to the usual Hollywood and Broadway conventions, this Motown story is told by reference to good people and bad people.

The film’s “happy ending” sees the Florence “Flo” Ballard character, sacked from the Supremes in 1967, reunited with the group for a farewell concert.

It is travesty of the truth – Flo died a penniless exile from Motown in 1976.

The real story of Motown and its groups is a far more interesting and complex tale.

Label boss Berry Gordy took his inspiration for Motown from the car factories of Detroit.

Every aspect of the production of a song was broken down into a series of small tasks on which an individual would work.

Only those at the head of the company would have an overview of each single that was for release.

The driving rhythm of Motown also derived from the factories, sometimes quite literally.

Instruments in early singles by The Temptations included a chain winch, used to load car engines, being shaken to create a gritty trashing sound.

That Motown was able to make music that could cross the racial divide is often attributed solely to its groundbreaking sound.

But Gordy used his marketing skills to shape his artists into what he thought would be acceptable to “white society”.

Ultimately the restrictions that Motown put on its artists hindered its creative development and created the tensions that would destroy the label.

You see the occasional glimpses of this world in the film, but they are far too fleeting to inform the viewer.

Instead Dreamgirls just sells us another fantasy.

Another, more extensive, Dreamgirls review: here.

Supremes’ clothes: here.

2 thoughts on “Dreamgirls, Hollywood does not tell real story of Motown and the Supremes

  1. Maxine Ballard writes the True Story of Florence Ballard!

    Florence “Blondie” Ballard, Diane “Diana” Ross and Mary Wilson met and
    became childhood friends during the 1950’s. Under the watchful eye and
    skilled tutelage of Milton Jenkins, the friends later became the trio
    The Primettes, ultimately transformed into the greatest female singing
    group of all time – The Supremes. In 1967, Florence Ballard left the
    group, and though much has been written about her life after the
    Supremes, the true facts of her story have never surfaced – until now.
    Maxine “Precious” Ballard Jenkins – the sister of Florence Ballard –
    has written the true account of Florence Ballard’s life, including her
    reasons behind leaving the group, the relationship she shared with
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    Like

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