TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over, directed by David Heilbroner and Dave Wooley, is about crossover superstar Dionne Warwick — her rise to fame, missteps, and impact within and outside the recording industry. It features interviews with mentors like Burt Bacharach and Clive Davis, contemporaries like Gladys Knight, Carlos Santana, and Elton John, and the younger generation she has inspired like Snoop Dogg and Alicia Keys.
It is hard to overstate the success or impact of Warwick. For 44 years, she was one the biggest hit-makers in the world, with 56 singles making the Hot 100. You know the lyrics of so many of her hits by heart: Walk On By, Do You Know the Way to San Jose, I’ll Never Love This Way Again, and That’s What Friends Are For, to name but a few. The documentary explores her rise to stardom, from early gospel singing in groups with family members to winning amateur night at The Apollo, putting herself through college as a backup singer, and being discovered by longtime collaborator Bacharach. And that’s all before she really got started — setting the world on fire with her powerful voice, sex appeal, and strong personality.
“…[Warwick’s] rise to fame, missteps, and impact within and outside the recording industry.”
For those who aren’t familiar with Warwick, which honestly can only be those from a younger generation, Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over will be a fascinating glimpse into the life of a pioneering superstar. In 1971 she became the top-paid female recording artist of all time, an especially monumental achievement for a black woman. As the film chronicles, she was nearly arrested for speaking her mind in the segregated South and didn’t listen to advice on coddling white audiences. Still, she crossed over to enormous success with both black and white audiences in the U.S. and audiences from a wide variety of cultures around the world.
Warwick gets particular plaudits from Elton John and President Clinton for her work as an activist. She was one of the first big stars to spotlight AIDS in the 1980s when many still considered there to be a stigma associated with the disease. She promised the proceeds to one of her all-time greatest hits, That’s What Friends Are For, to an AIDS charity. Clinton, in particular, says he’s a fan and singles her out for her constant efforts to increase AIDS funding and awareness.
"…Snoop Dogg steals the show..."