Thursday, July 16, 2009

Carmen & Geoffrey DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Recounts the Enduring Marriage and Careers of Carmen De Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder

Carmen De Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder have been happily-married for over fifty years. During that time span, the talented couple has not only raised their son, Leo, but they’ve supported each other’s every creative endeavor and enjoyed enduring careers in the arts.

Born in New Orleans but raised in California, Carmen got her start in the Fifties as a dancer, appearing in Hollywood films like Carmen Jones and Odds against Tomorrow. However, she really came into her own as a soloist with Alvin Ailey’s company and as a prima ballerina with the Metropolitan Opera.

Geoffrey, meanwhile, was born in Trinidad where as a child he was unfairly labeled as slow academically due to dyslexia and a stammer which caused him to stutter. And given the Anglophilic nature of his post-colonial homeland where all of his local folklore was banned, it’s a wonder that he was able to reach maturity with a healthy sense of self still intact.

But the 6’6” gentle giant made his way to New York City where he broke into showbiz on Broadway, initially as a dancer, just like the lovely wife-to-be he met when they were both cast in The Flower Drum Song. Relying on Carmen as a constant source of inspiration, Geoffrey soon blossomed into a formidable Renaissance Man.

His myriad talents led to noteworthy accomplishments as a dancer, actor, director, choreographer, costume and set designer, painter and musician. Although his stage career peaked when he won a Tony Award for directing The Wiz, is probably most recognized as the pitchman for a series of TV commercials for 7-Up in the phenomenally successful “Un-Cola” ad campaign.

Furthermore, Geoffrey’s left his mark on Hollywood, co-starring in the 007 feature film Live and Let Die and in the screen adaptation of the musical Annie, etcetera. All the while, he has remained a prolific fine artist whose paintings and sculptures have landed in leading museums and private collections. Today, Carmen, a renowned choreographer, teaches at Yale where she’s been on the faculty since 1970.

As engagingly-chronicled by co-directors Linda Atkinson and Nick Doob, Carmen & Geoffrey stands as a fitting tribute to a pair of extraordinary overachievers and as a touching portrait of over a half century of black-on-black love and of lives very well lived.

Excellent (4 stars)


Running time: 80 minutes

Studio: First Run Features

To purchase a copy of Carmen & Geoffrey, visit:

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