One simple question, people: Do you know where you're goin' to? And furthermore, Do you like the things that life is showin' you? These questions are posed in the unavoidable theme song (a huge Seventies hit) from "Mahogany", a splashy, diva-sized vehicle for Diana Ross. Miss Ross was hot off her unexpected and critically approved starring role in "Lady Sings the Blues" when she embarked on this musical, a rags-to-riches saga of a Chicago girl who dreams of being a fashion designer but becomes a supermodel instead. Original director Tony Richardson was replaced behind the camera by Motown founder and puppetmaster supreme Berry Gordy, who knew something about turning Ross into an idealized vision of femininity (for more on their relationship, check out the fictionalized version in "Dreamgirls").
Ross looks a little overwhelmed by the plot machinations, which take her from the orbit of a regular-guy activist (Billy Dee Williams) into the glam world of European fashion--the latter courtesy of a cranky, unstable photographer played by Anthony Perkins. Perkins is sky-high fun in this thing, as though he suspected the movie was in trouble and decided to let the tics and nerviness fly. These days "Mahogany" is treasured either as a fond childhood memory or as a ripe camp-fest, and that's probably about where it belongs. Still, it looks positively restrained next to the other big diva musical of the same historical moment, Barbra Streisand's 1976 "A Star is Born". "--Robert Horton"