Beale Street History 1901-2001 Reenacted
100 Years of Beale Street Blues, Jazz and Culture
The Home of the Blues
Memphis, Tennessee, "The Home of the Blues," is also the home of historic Beale Street.
The on hundred year history (1901-2001) of Beale Street is creatively reenacted in a docudrama trilogy called Take Me Back to Beale.
Take Me Back To Beale has been produced in three parts called "books".
- BOOK I (Beale Street 1901-1936)
- BOOK II (Beale Street 1936-1952)
- BOOK III (Beale Street 1952-2001)
Three Books That Span 100 Years of Beale Street History
What Is a Docudrama?
A docudrama is a documentary drama which features dramatized re-enactments of actual events.
Take Me Back to Beale is a docudrama which reenacts the one hundred year history (1901-2001) of Beale Street. A docudrama is a documentary drama which features dramatized re-enactments of actual events.
Different Eras of Beale Street Are Portrayed
Take Me Back to Beale is written and directed by Carolyn Yancy-Gunn. It features over seventy students and graduates of Carolyn's Finishing Academy, which is a premier, performing arts and charm and etiquette school located in Memphis, Tennessee.
The majority of the docudrama was filmed on location in nostalgic areas in Memphis that were incredibly similar to the different eras of Beale Street that are portrayed in the movie.
What's It All About?
The actual history of the legendary street called Beale is artistically woven within the dramatic fabric of a fictionalized plot. CFA graduate Arthur Smith portrays the icon W.C. Handy and Tony Patterson, also a CFA graduate, plays the fictional character Hank. In this docudrama, which is also a trilogy, the spirit of W.C. Handy enters his statue in Handy Park on Beale Street to take Hank, a lazy construction worker working on the renovation of Beale Street in 1981, on a tour of Beale Street.
A Tour of Beale Street
The tour of the illustrious street spans from 1901 to 2001. As W.C. Handy and Hank travel in and out of various Beale Street time eras, Handy reveals to Hank everything that Beale Street had to offer. The duo are eyewitness to the booze, the saloons, the bawdy houses, the blues, the jazz, and the struggle of every entertainer that ever came through Beale.
The fictional aspect of the film is further emphasized by the subtitles of each part (book) of the trilogy. The subtitles describe what happens before, during, and after Hank visits a Beale Street hoodoo lady in the 1940s.
Each "book" of the Take Me Back to Beale trilogy has a subtitle.
- BOOK I (Before The Red Ball)
- BOOK II (During The Red Ball)
- BOOK III (After The Red Ball)
Reenactments of Beale Street Events
In the docudrama, Beale Street culture and celebrities are professionally portrayed by relatively undiscovered talent. The Carolyn's Finishing Academy students and graduates who make up the cast provide an entertaining and colorful twist to the study of history. Many graduates play more than one part in the film. The passion that many of the students exhibited by first studying the characters they play, and then providing their own costumes and makeup, cause them to be virtually indistinguishable from one role to the next. The excellent filming locations along with the enthusiastic student participation serve as invaluable assets for the low budget production.
Take Me Back to Beale has
a professionally trained cast,
a creative and colorful story line, and great historical content.
Beale Street 1901-1936Click thumbnail to view full-size
Book I Celebrity Depictions
- W.C. Handy
- Memphis Minnie
- Bessie Smith
- Ma' Rainey
Shoppers on Beale Street in 1936
Book I Historical Sites and Events
- The Hole In The Wall Night Club
- Hammitt Ashford Saloon
- Pee Wee's Saloon
- The Monarch Club
- The Cotton Carnival Parade
- 1936 Cotton Makers Jubilee Festival
- Crowning of The First Cotton Makers Jubilee King and Queen
- Beale Street Markets
- Doctors & Lawyers Offices of Beale Street
Gamblers on Beale Street in 1909
Book II Celebrity Depictions
- Duke Ellington
- Bobbie Blue Bland
- Ella Fitzgerald
- B.B. King
- Elvis Presley
- Ukulele Ike
- Piano Red
- Nat D. Williams
- Rufus Thomas
- The Brown Skin Models
Beale Street in the 1940sClick thumbnail to view full-size
Book II Historical Sites and Events
- Beale Street Hoo Doist
- The Hippodrome
- Sun Beam Mitchell's Club
- Beale Street Pawn Shops
- Pace and Handy Music
- The Grey Mule Club
- Lansky Brothers
- The Harlem House
- The Palace Theater
Book III Celebrity Depictions
- Muddy Waters
- Isaac Hayes
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Muddy Waters on Beale Street in the 1950s (Reenactment)
Book III Historical Sites and Events
- First Baptist Beale
- The New Daisy Theater
- The Malco Theater
- Foote Homes
- Robert Henry's Pool Hall
Isaac Hayes at First Baptist Beale (Reenactment)
A Good Choice
The three parts of the movie average around 90 minutes each. This makes a total of about 270 minutes for the whole series. Part one of the trilogy has achieved accolades for standing-room-only attendance at festivals and private showings. I believe that the 270 minute project could have been edited down to one movie of around 120 minutes. However; if that had been the case, the many classical settings and the impressively revealing dialogue in the docudrama would be sorely missed. I feel that the option to make a trilogy out of the production rather than cutting it down was a good choice that the director made.
Did You Know?
Did you know that by the turn of the 20th century, Beale Street had become something of a self-contained microcosm, with churches, pharmacies, groceries, public housing, and entertainment venues?
Beale Street Is Located in Memphis, TN
Memphis gave birth to the blues when W.C. Handy pinned his first blues song in Pee Wee's Saloon on the colorful and historic Beale St. in 1909.
Film Festival Honors
- Indie-Memphis Film Festival Induction
- Showing at the Muvico Theaters in Peabody Place; Memphis, Tennessee
- Media Co-op Film Festival in Memphis, Tennessee
- Showing at the Congo Theater; Memphis, Tennessee
Take Me Back to Beale received honorable mention for "standing-room-only" audience attendance in the Indie-Memphis Festival.
- Indie-Memphis Festival honorable mention for "standing-room-only" audience attendance
- Media Co-op Film Festival in Memphis, Tennessee "standing room-only"
- Showing at the Congo Theater; Memphis, Tennessee "standing-room-only"
Well Worth the Viewing Time
Even though Take Me Back to Beale is an independent film with a limited budget and beginning actors, the creative and colorful story line, the historical content, and the professionalism of the cast make the film well worth the time to view it.
Take Me Back To Beale, Dir. Carolyn Yancy-Gunn. Edited by Robert Odell, Jr. Perfs. Arthur Smith, Tony Patterson, CFA Graduates. DVD. CFA Productions, Inc. Archives
© 2015 Robert Odell Jr