Beginning in 1958, Sparkle tells the (fictional) story of three singing sisters who climb up from the Harlem ghetto and fight their way to superstardom.
Fresh new 17-year-old talent Irene Cara starred in the title role. Costarring as her sisters were Lonette McKee and Dwan Smith.
Managed by Sparkle’s boyfriend, Stix (Philip M Thomas), the girls are an instant sensation, winning a talent contest and appearing in numerous splashy gowns unaccounted for in the family budget (chalk them up to dramatic licence).
But suddenly, the songstresses with the Supremes-like style are in over their heads, making love with sadistic sugar daddies and dining on dope.
Personality conflicts lead to the group’s demise, and Sparkle eventually separates from her sisters – amid violence perpetrated on those around her by a local thug called Satin (Tony King) – and turns a successful first recording into a major live-appearance solo gig at Carnegie Hall.
The sisters’ mother, Effie (movingly portrayed by Mary Alice), supports her family by working as a maid for rich white folk out in the suburbs. At one point, while cleaning house on Long Island when she’s obviously upset about the breakup of her family, the lady of the house patronisingly says, “If something’s bothering you, Effie, I hope you’ll share it with me as a friend”.
Whitney Houston gained remake rights for the film and had planned to have the late R&B artist Aaliyah star as the title character before she passed away.
The remake was eventually released in 2012, starring Houston herself in her final project.
Philip M Thomas
Otis Day (as De Wayne Jessie)