Synopsis by Mark Deming
Actor and dancer Gregory Hines served as both executive producer and star for this biographical drama that chronicles the life of legendary entertainer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. In 1916, Robinson was a successful vaudeville performer and considered the finest tap dancer of his generation when he met Fannie (Kimberly Elise), a college student nearly two decades his junior. Even though Robinson was already married, he quickly fell in love with Fannie, and in time she was swept off her feet by the charismatic dancer and became his second wife. Fannie was one of the first people to encourage Robinson to stop performing in blackface (common for African-American vaudeville performers of the time), and in the 1930s, she and manager Marty Forkins (Peter Riegert) persuaded Bill to move to Hollywood and find work in the movies. While roles for black actors in Hollywood were severely limited at the time, Robinson managed to become a recognized film star, headlining the musical Stormy Weather and appearing in a number of pictures with child star Shirley Temple. But while Robinson's film work helped make him the best-known black performer in America, his frequent roles as domestic servants did little to earn him respect among his own people, and he was often seen as an "Uncle Tom" for his aggressively cheerful on-stage demeanor. And while Robinson was confronted with the less fortunate consequences of fame, he and Fannie had to deal with his growing addiction to gambling, which threatened to leave the highest-paid black man in America flat broke. Bojangles also features Savion Glover and Maria Ricossa; the film was produced for the Showtime premium cable network, where it first aired on February 4, 2001.
performer, gambler-compulsive, movie-star, racial-tension, tap-dance, vaudeville