Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind The Making Of “A Low Down Dirty Shame”
I’ve wanted to expound on the secrets behind this film for the longest. But the information is sparse. Well, today you’re in for a treat. We’re talking about the Wayans written, directed film. Let’s just jump right in.
Jada had known Wayans for five years before she got the role
You probably knew that Jada studied dance at the North Carolina School of the Arts; but chances are, you didn’t know that she auditioned to be the choreographer for “In Living Color.”
Remember Peaches’ best friend Wayman? He was played by deceased comedian Corwin Hawkins. In addition to his regular stand up, Corwin was also well known for his drag character “Amazing Grace.” As Amazing Grace, Corwin didn’t wear flowing gowns and extensive makeup; instead, he wore a business suit and a smart bob.
Keenan Ivory Wayans met Hawkins when he appeared on Def Comedy Jam , Comic View and HBO comedy specials and offered him the part of Wayman, which was originally written with Rupaul in mind. Hawkins died of AIDS related complications, pneumonia, in August of 1994 at 29 years old, just three months before the A Low Down Dirty Shame hit theaters.
Keenen on Corwin
After Corwin died, Keeenen spoke to The Advocate, a publication geared toward the LGBTQ community:
“I dedicated the movie to him. Corwin was a funny guy. Yes, he was effeminate but so what?”
Keenen’s foray into directing didn’t fare too badly. The movie cost $10 million and made almost three times as much when it went to theaters, bringing in $29,392,418 domestically.
Leaving Living Color
You may remember “In Living Color” ended in 1994, when Keenen and FOX couldn’t come to an agreement. They wanted to run the show twice a week and Keenen thought that would compromise the show’s value when it reached syndication. They couldn’t come to an agreement and Keenen decided to leave. Once all the Wayans left, they tried to have other people write the content but the show flopped after that. In an interview with The Baltimore Sun this is what Damon had to say about the Fox split.
“It’s a testament to my brother’s genius that the show got canceled because they thought they could do without him.”
The transition film
Keenan told Jet Magazine in 1994, that A Low Down Dirty Shame was his opportunity to bridge the gap between comedy and parody to a more serious style of film making.
“This movie has a lot more serious elements. It’s kind of a bridge for me to go from the sort of things that I’ve been doing to something new. Just to give me more diversity. There Is a lot of comedy in the movie, but it moves away from the spoof sort of style of stuff that I’ve done.”
Living Color Wounds
By the time Keenen was making Low Down he’d moved beyond the “In Living Color” beef.
“Time has passed and the wounds have healed and I’ve moved on to other things. I’ve had time to really spend thinking about what I want to do and setting up other situations.”
Before shaving completely bald at the end of the movie, Shame’s haircut is different in almost every shot.
Though the film featured huge talent for the ’90s including Zhane, Changing Faces, UGK, Tevin Campbell and R Kelly, it failed to do exceptionally well on the charts. It peaked at number 70 on the Billboard 200 and 14 on the R&B charts. A review of the soundtrack by Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic.com said “there is a noticeable lack of memorable material, leaving the record as nothing but a pleasant genre exercise.
Wondering what Roger Ebert thought of the film? Well, in his Chicago Tribune review, he said that there were holes and it was mostly about guns but he enjoyed Jada Pinkett’s performance. See what he had to say in detail.
A few bright points: Pinkett is quirky and funny as Peaches, although the character owes more than a little to Rosie Perez’s screen persona. Salli Richardson is a great beauty, although not given much to do, and saddled with one particularly unpleasant scene.
And Wayans pulls a truly neat stunt with a bungee cord. All the rest is gun behavior: holding, waving, dropping, drawing, shooting, loading, pointing, displaying, polishing and posturing. Take away the guns and this would be a movie about too many characters and no way to get rid of them.