Diana Ross in “Mahogany”
Already an icon of vinyl and screen, Oscar-nominated success Diana Ross migrated from “Lady Sings the Blues” to another story of a troubled woman in a high-profile profession. Berry Gordy cast her in “Mahogany,” a tale of an aspiring fashion designer who gets entrenched in the world of Italian models and temperamental photographers. The film proved a hit for Ross, but the critics didn’t buy it, unsurprising given that the film plays out as a 70s-era soapy melodrama, and has more parallels to Christina Aguilera’s “Burlesque” than just the pop-star-plays-aspirational-protégé premise.
Ross herself is good in the scenes where the film attempts to emulate the vastly superior “Claudine” from the previous year, geared towards Black social commentary and eventually intent on blaming the world of white fashionistas for turning our heroine into a selfish diva. She often sidesteps the badly-written elements of her character designed to inject dramatic effect into a film without legitimately interesting issues of conflict, and is far better than "Mahogany" itself deserves, deploying Tracy’s inherent independence as both a source of charm and a jarring defence mechanism, lending credence to her character’s many erratic eruptions of frustration and self-righteousness. While not a classic tour-de-force, if you’re looking for performances which significantly benefit their film, look no further than Ross, who, on this display, warranted a lengthier filmography than the one she has now.