Cast & Crew
In a Harlem apartment building, Jim Walton listens to Slam Stewart and his band, which he plans to feature in his new show along with female impersonator Bumpsie. Jim is in love with Cristola Cummings, whose wealthy father, believing that Jim is a successful producer, has promised to put up half the money for the new show if Parisian Madame Deborah will supply the rest of the funds. Cummings arrives unexpectedly from Chicago with Cristola and her sister Francine, hoping to meet Madame Deborah. Attempting to maintain a pretense of wealth, Jim and his partner, Harry Diggs, ask one of their actors to impersonate a butler. Their ruse is almost exposed when their landlord, Mr. Donaldson, demands that they pay their back rent, but Jim manages to convince Cummings that Donaldson is an actor in a play called "I Want My Room Rent." Learning that Madame Deborah will not arrive for a few days, Harry persuades Bumpsie to impersonate her by promising to star him in the new show. Later, when she is alone with Jim, Cristola scolds him for not writing, but embraces him when he honestly admits he does not have the Long Island mansion he claimed. While Francine gets to know Harry, Cummings converses with Bumpsie. Cummings, who is attracted to Bumpsie, hints that he would like to marry again for the sake of his daughters. Meanwhile, the real Madame Deborah arrives and introduces herself as "Mrs. Martin." Seeing that she is wealthy, Donaldson is pleased to rent a room to her. From Gaston, who has followed her from Paris, Donaldson learns that Madame Deborah has "oodles of money" and suddenly takes an interest in Bumpsie, who he thinks is Madame Deborah. Donaldson then plans a garden party in Madame Deborah's honor and offers his actor residents free rent for a week, plus ten dollars, for providing the entertainment. When Cummings learns that his daughters want to marry Jim and Harry, he objects at first, but later agrees to give his consent if Madame Deborah approves, as he will announce his engagement to her that night. Coincidentally, both Gaston and Donaldson also intend to announce their engagements to Madame Deborah that night. During the garden party, Bumpsie invites his two suitors to a rent party for Jim and Harry, explaining it is a rehearsal of a show titled "The Rent Party." When Bumpsie dances in a scanty ballet costume, Cummings, thinking that "Madame Deborah" is exposing herself to other men, jealously stalks out. Escaping from pranksters, Bumpsie encounters the real Madame Deborah, who hides him in her room, where he falls asleep. Outraged because he thinks that the whole building is being lured by Bumpsie's charms, Cummings decides to return to Chicago with his daughters. When Cristola confesses that she knows Jim is broke, but admires the way he has kept up his courage, the real Madame Deborah vows to intercede with Cummings. Although he has sworn to avoid women, Cummings is immediately attracted by Madame Deborah's flirtations. Meanwhile, two French thugs kidnap Bumpsie after they, too, mistake him for Madame Deborah. When Gaston removes the cover over Bumpsie's head, in preparation for a kiss, he recoils in horror. Bumpsie challenges him to a fight and then, still dressed in a ballet costume, runs away. When a dropped handkerchief is found in Madame Deborah's room, Cummings and Donaldson think she has been kidnapped. Meanwhile, the rent party erupts in a fight. Gaston threatens Madame Deborah and Cummings, and Jim punches him. Later Bumpsie reappears without his disguise, and Madame Deborah reveals her true identity. Cummings and Madame Deborah decide to marry, and all ends happily when they agree to back Jim's show.
Big Sid Catlett
The International Jitterbugs
J. M. Lehrfeld
Mary Lou Williams
Boy! What a Girl!
Boy! What a Girl!
In the opening credits, following a standard indemnification clause (in which it is stated that the story, names, incidents and characters are fictitious), the following parenthetical statement was included: "Our lawyer, Mr. Hemindinger of Callahan, Callahan, & Callahan told us we had to say this." Boy! What a Girl! was the first production of Herald Pictures, which, according to the film's pressbook, planned to produce eleven more films and release one per month. The pressbook claimed that "the production cost of the picture is at least four times that spent on any all-Negro feature to date." Praising producer Jack Goldberg as a "successful pioneer in Negro stage and screen attractions," the pressbook stated, "For over twenty years he has fought slip-shod methods in all-Negro productions, and with each of his releases he has forced other producers to raise the standard of their pictures to meet his competition. This time they will be forced to jump their production cost to $50,000 on each picture if they expect to compete." Herald, which apparently hoped to widen the audience for their films, asserted in the pressbook that, "an all-Negro motion picture can be produced to play any theater in the country and, not merely confined to the some 600 odd playhouses that cater strictly to an all-Negro audience." The Variety reviewer commented, "The several hundred Negro film houses in this country have long been faced with a product shortage on race-films, and the newly formed Herald pictures will do something to alleviate the numerical relief." The pressbook claimed that this film was the first black-cast film to be made "under modern Hollywood conditions." It was produced at Fox Movietone Studios in New York City, where, according to the pressbook, they shared a studio floor with the production of Carnegie Hall (see below). Some location shooting was done in Harlem.
A Hollywood Reporter news item from August 1946 stated that Marva Louis, the ex-wife of heavyweight champion Joe Louis, had been signed to appear in the film, which was to be her first, but, her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to the pressbook, Big Sid Catlett played at Carnegie Hall the previous year as the drummer in an all-American jazz band; the Harlemaniacs were winners in "Lindy hopping" at the Harvest Moon Ball held at Madison Square Garden; and the noted drummer Gene Krupa was invited to appear in the film by director Arthur Leonard after Krupa came to the set to visit Catlett. According to Variety, Warren Patterson and Al Jackson, who played "Donaldson" and "Cummings," respectively, were a vaudeville comedy team.
Shown at New York Lesbian & Gay Film Festival June 6-16, 1996.