In the mid-80s, three women, each one claiming that she is Frankie Lymon‘s widow, are fighting in a trial. One is a music star, former member of the Platters (Zola Taylor), one is a petty thief (Elizabeth Waters) and the other is a school teacher in a small Georgia town (Emira Eagle). They want their part of estate, which was never shared by Lymon’s manager, Morris Levy.
During an the trial, flashbacks tell the story of each one’s life. Three true stories, three versions of the same man’s intense life. On one hand, Frankie Lymon was an extremely talented artist (singer, songwriter and dancer), but on the other hand he was a troubled character and a heroin addict. In his short life (he died at 25), he loved life, fame, women, but most of all music.
His success begin when he was only 13, with “Why Do Fools Fall in Love“. At 15, he met Zola Taylor (19) and he fell in love. Lymon’s slowly declining sales fell sharply after his voice changed and he lost his signature soprano voice.
Over the next four years, Lymon struggled through short deals with 20th Century Fox Records and Columbia Records. Lymon began a relationship with Elizabeth Waters, who became his first wife in January 1964. Lymon’s marriage to Waters was not legal in the beginning, because she was still married to her first husband. After the marriage failed, he moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1960s, where he returned to Zola Taylor (right).
In 1965 (aged 22), Lymon was drafted into the United States Army and reported to Fort Gordon, Georgia, for training. There, Lymon met and fell in love with Emira Eagle, a schoolteacher. The two married in June 1967 and Lymon moved into his wife’s home, continuing to perform sporadically. But one day he decided to return to New York, where he hoped to regain fame. One week after, he was found dead of a heroin overdose, at age 25.
Years after, great singers named Lymon as their musical influence: Diana Ross, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson,The Beach Boys and many others. The artists most inspired by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers’ style were The Jackson 5 and their lead singer and future superstar Michael Jackson.
The trial, a major controversy concerning Lymon’s estate, that also generated the subject of the movie, was caused by Diana Ross‘s revival of the hit “Why Do Fools Fall in Love“.
This 1998 film was directed by Gregory Nava, also the director of Selena’s biography. The film stars Larenz Tate as Frankie Lymon, Halle Berry as Zola Taylor, Vivica A. Fox as Elizabeth Waters and Lela Rochon as Elmira Eagle. Moreover, the film is enriched by the presence of Little Richard as himself.
Strong points: powerful, vivid and emotional picture of a troubled life; strong characters embodied by great actors
Weak points: not too many details about Lymon’s early life/ childhood or musical background; no mention about how he started his drug addiction.