Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ray Charles: What’d I Say (1965)

Ray Charles [1930–2004; born Ray Charles Robinson in Albany, Georgia] and band, along with the Raeletts perform “What’d I Say” in this 1965 British film, Ballard in Blue. In the film, Ray Charles plays himself. The song, written by Charles, is classic American r&b. It is the title track of the album of the same name released on October 19, 1959. Charles always closed his concerts with this song.

The film was directed by Paul Henreid (playing Victor Laszlo) of Casablanca fame. The intended title of the film was Light Out Of Darkness, and it was released in the U.S. as Blues For Lovers.

The Ray Charles Video Museum writes on its excellent site why this film is not widely known by the public:
Ray later said the film was underfinanced, and got too little promotion. The film opened in London in February 1965 and in New York (titled Blues For Lovers) around December 31st, 1965. In Europe it received some distribution in regular movie theaters in the mid and late 1960s. I've also found several tv broadcasts, everywhere in Europe, mainly in the 1970s. 20th Century-Fox Film picked up the American distribution rights in September 1966. I know of one brief review in The Afro American of 28 January 1967 (here), and found a few traces of U.S. theater distribution and TV broadcasts, but it seems as if the film never got proper attention in the U.S.
What a shame; the film seems worth watching, if only for the music.

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