In a bold move, the biggest star of the Negro Baseball League, pitcher Bingo Long (Billy Dee Williams, The Empire Strikes Back), decides to seek out a more diversified audience by hitting the road, accompanied by some of the best players in the league. As they travel through many small towns in the 1930s, they encounter all sorts of characters and adventures.
Reaction & Thoughts:
At the height of the civil right movements, African-American artists quickly began emerging as a powerful and influential group in Hollywood. The popularity of movies like The Great White Hope (1970), Lady Sings the Blues (1972) and Sounder (1972), and the so-called “blaxploitation” films (low budgets movies with a predominant black cast) convinced the film industry that mainstream audiences were ready to watch movies that presented life from the black point of view.
Finely directed by John Badham (Saturday Night Fever) from a screenplay by Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins based on the novel by William Brashler, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings belongs to this group of films that helped put in perspective the black experience, using some of the most talented group of African-American actors of the time. The film is an easygoing and completely disarming romp that today looks a bit dated, yet remains genuinely charming.
I first watched The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings many years ago when VCRs were an expensive novelty. Even though I did enjoy the film very much, this second time around I became aware of many things about the movie that, for one reason or the other, I couldn’t appreciate back then. For example, despite the film’s many funny vignettes, now I realize the sad tone that the entire movie is built on, since most of the movie’s characters have to behave within the boundaries of a racist society.
Nevertheless, and more surprisingly, despite the serious statements that the movie makes about prejudice, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings never gets preachy or ceremonial, providing many laughs along the way. This is a good comedy-drama that I’m sure many viewers will find very entertaining.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings is a 40-year-old movie, so it goes without saying that the passage of time has somehow compromised the quality of the material. This is, however, a fine movie, well served by a competent cast that includes Williams, James Earl Jones (Conan The Barbarian), Richard Pryor (The Toy), Tony Burton (Rocky), Jophery C. Brown (Foul Play), and Stan Shaw (The Great Santini). Co-produced by Motown’s guru Berry Gordy. Color, 111 minutes, Rated PG.