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'Take Me Back to Beale' Movie Review

Updated on May 23, 2019
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Robert Odell, Jr. is a seasoned video analyst with several years of experience in the creation and observance of film and digital assets.

The one hundred year (1901-2001) story of blues,  jazz, and culture on historic Beale Street is reenacted in the docudrama Take Me Back to Beale.
The one hundred year (1901-2001) story of blues, jazz, and culture on historic Beale Street is reenacted in the docudrama Take Me Back to Beale. | Source

The Home of the Blues

Memphis, Tennessee is often called "The Home of the Blues." The blues lived out its infancy and still enjoys the comfort of home, in Memphis, on a street called Beale.

The on hundred year history (1901-2001) of Beale Street is creatively and tastefully reenacted in a docudrama trilogy called Take Me Back to Beale.

Letter Carriers Band N.A.L.C. Branch No. 27.  Armistice Parade. November 24, 1924.  Memphis, TN on historic Beale Street
Letter Carriers Band N.A.L.C. Branch No. 27. Armistice Parade. November 24, 1924. Memphis, TN on historic Beale Street | Source

What Is a Docudrama?

A docudrama is a documentary drama which features dramatized reenactments. 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 reenactments of actual events.

Filmed on Location

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. The locations were incredibly similar to the different eras of Beale Street that are portrayed in the movie.

Three Books

Take Me Back To Beale has been produced in three parts called "books." Each book represents a distinct period of Beale Street history.

  • BOOK I (Beale Street 1901-1936)
  • BOOK II (Beale Street 1936-1952)
  • BOOK III (Beale Street 1952-2001)


What's It All About?

The actual history of the legendary street is artistically woven within the dramatic fabric of a fictionalized plot. CFA graduate Arthur Smith portrays the icon W.C. Handy. Tony Patterson, also a CFA graduate, plays the fictional character Hank. In the docudrama, which is also a trilogy, the spirit of W.C. Handy enters his statue in Handy Park, on Beale Street. After entering the statue, the spirit of Handy takes Hank, a lazy construction worker, working on the renovation of Beale Street in 1981, on a tour of Beale Street. The tour spans over one hundred years of Beale Street History. Hank experiences the booze, the saloons, the bawdy houses, the blues, the jazz, and bears witness to the trials of every dream-filled hopeful that ever came through Beale.


The actual history of Beale Street is woven within the fabric of a fictionalized plot. CFA graduate Arthur Smith (suited) portrays the icon W.C. Handy and Tony Patterson (white T-shirt), also a CFA graduate, plays the fictional character Hank.
The actual history of Beale Street is woven within the fabric of a fictionalized plot. CFA graduate Arthur Smith (suited) portrays the icon W.C. Handy and Tony Patterson (white T-shirt), also a CFA graduate, plays the fictional character Hank. | Source

Trilogy Subtitles

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 fictional aspect of the film is emphasized by the subtitles of each book (era) of the trilogy. The subtitles point to events that occur before, during, and after Hank visits a Beale Street hoodoo lady in the 1940s.

  • BOOK I (Before The Red Ball)
  • BOOK II (During The Red Ball)
  • BOOK III (After The Red Ball)

As Hank's visit with the hoodoo lady comes to an end, she places a red, good luck ball around his neck. She then gives Hank the harrowing instructions, "As long as you wear this red, ...luck ball, the renovation of Beale will be successful." The movie reveals the fact that hoodoo takes a prominent place in the history of the renowned street.

The subtitles of the trilogy Take Me Back to Beale describe what happens before, during, and after the character, Hank, visits a Beale Street hoodoo lady in the 1940s.
The subtitles of the trilogy Take Me Back to Beale describe what happens before, during, and after the character, Hank, visits a Beale Street hoodoo lady in the 1940s. | Source

Professionally Portrayed

In the docudrama, Beale Street culture and celebrities are professionally portrayed. 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 of the graduates perform more than one role in the film. The passion that many of the students exhibited by first studying the characters that they portray, and then providing their own costumes and makeup, cause them to be virtually indistinguishable from one role to the next.

Location Logistics

Location logistics were handled under the auspices of CFA Productions Inc., the production arm of Carolyn's Finishing Academy. Hollywood productions such as The Firm, Hustle and Flow, Black Snake Moan, and Walk The Line used some of the exact same areas for filming. The excellent filming locations, along with the enthusiastic student participation, serve as invaluable assets for the modestly, budgeted production. Take Me Back to Beale offers the viewer a well trained cast, an evocative and creative story line, and preeminent historical content.

Take Me Back to Beale offers the viewer a well trained cast, an evocative and creative story line, and preeminent historical content.

Beale Street 1901-1936

Take Me Back to Beale (Book I), Bessie Smith accosts a male who jilted  her.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I), Bessie Smith accosts a male who jilted her. | Source
Beale Street Dancers in the early 1900's are tastefully portrayed in Book I of Take Me Back to Beale
Beale Street Dancers in the early 1900's are tastefully portrayed in Book I of Take Me Back to Beale | Source
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) depicts a 1920's Beale Street saloon.  Memphis Minnie can be seen performing in the background.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) depicts a 1920's Beale Street saloon. Memphis Minnie can be seen performing in the background. | Source
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) depicts Memphis Minnie performing on Beale Street in the 1920s.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) depicts Memphis Minnie performing on Beale Street in the 1920s. | Source
In Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) Ma'Rainey creates a fuss on a 1936 Beale Street Saturday.
In Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) Ma'Rainey creates a fuss on a 1936 Beale Street Saturday. | Source

Book I Celebrity Depictions

  • W.C. Handy
  • Memphis Minnie
  • Bessie Smith
  • Ma' Rainey

1936 Beale Street Shoppers

Take Me Back to Beale  (Book I) shows shoppers on Beale Street in a 1936 setting.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) shows shoppers on Beale Street in a 1936 setting. | Source

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

Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) reveals that back room gambling was a common occurrence in Beale Street Saloons during the early 1900s.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) reveals that back room gambling was a common occurrence in Beale Street Saloons during the early 1900s. | Source

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 1940s

Beale Street was vibrant and filled with music as seen in this 1940s depiction from Book II of Take Me Back to Beale.
Beale Street was vibrant and filled with music as seen in this 1940s depiction from Book II of Take Me Back to Beale. | Source
A Beale Street hoodooist as seen in Book II of Take Me Back to Beale.
A Beale Street hoodooist as seen in Book II of Take Me Back to Beale. | Source

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 in the 1950s (Reenactment)

Take Me Back to Beale (Book III) shows the legendary Muddy Waters on Beale Street.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book III) shows the legendary Muddy Waters on Beale Street. | Source

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)

Take Me Back to Beale (Book III) portrays Isaac Hayes singing gospel music.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book III) portrays Isaac Hayes singing gospel music. | Source

A Welcomed Choice

The three books (parts) of the movie average around 90 minutes each, making a total of approximately 270 minutes for the whole series. Part one of the trilogy has achieved accolades for standing-room-only attendance at festivals and private showings. The complete 270 minute project could have, possibly, 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. The option to make a trilogy out of the production rather than cutting it down was a welcomed choice that the director made.

This 1939 photo of Rex Billiard Hall for Colored portrays the culture of early 1900s Beale Street, which is reenacted in the docudrama Take Me Back to Beale.
This 1939 photo of Rex Billiard Hall for Colored portrays the culture of early 1900s Beale Street, which is reenacted in the docudrama Take Me Back to Beale. | Source
This 1974 photo of Beale Street was taken six years before the renovation of Beale Street began in 1980.
This 1974 photo of Beale Street was taken six years before the renovation of Beale Street began in 1980. | Source
The Monarch Club at 340 Beale was known for gambling and violence.  In the early 1900s it was called "The Castle of Missing Men" because many times gamblers who went in came up missing.
The Monarch Club at 340 Beale was known for gambling and violence. In the early 1900s it was called "The Castle of Missing Men" because many times gamblers who went in came up missing. | Source

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?

See results

Beale Street of Memphis, Tennessee

A
Beale Street:
Beale Street, Memphis, TN 38103, USA

get directions

Memphis gave birth to the blues when W.C. Handy pinned his first blues song in Pee Wee's Saloon on colorful and historic Beale Street 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

Honorable Mention

Take Me Back to Beale received honorable mention for "standing-room-only" audience attendance in the Indie-Memphis Festival.

Audience Attendance

  • 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 in Memphis, Tennessee "standing-room-only"

Well Worth the Viewing Time

Take Me Back to Beale offers a tasteful reenactment of Beale Street History. Even though it is an independent film with a lite budget, 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

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    • Oztinato profile image

      Andrew Petrou 

      17 months ago from Brisbane

      All modern music began in these places. God bless black music.

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