Maurice Hines doc covers his storied career, complex relationship with brother Gregory
REVIEW: 'Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back,' is an enlightening look inside the life of the Tony Award-nominated actor/dancer
Maurice Hines may not be a household name but as a respected, prolific tap dancer, choreographer, and stage actor, Hines has been lighting up Broadway for decades.
While his own credentials are amazing, his personal and professional connection with his younger brother, the late dancer/actor Gregory Hines, loomed largest in his brothers life. Their relationship is chronicled in the documentary, Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back.
Though the doc was originally released in 2019, it premiered on Starz on Feb. 11 and is now also available on demand.
Directed by Emmy-nominated filmmaker John Carluccio, who also produced the film with his wife, writer/producer Tracey E. Hopkins, Bring Them Back is an intimate portrait of a brilliant artist who knows who he is, isn’t afraid to bite his tongue, and is fully aware of how being both Black and gay has been an obstacle for him in show business.
Viewers see footage of Hines’ mastery of tap dance from childhood all the way into his mid-70’s. Inspired by legendary Black dancers like Coles & Atkins, Bunny Briggs, Teddy Hale, and Baby Laurence, Hines was 5-years-old when he started dancing with 3-year-old Gregory.
From there, the audience is privy to the long, and complicated partnership between Hines and Gregory. Gregory’s daughter, Daria Hines, says there was pressure on them from to be the primary moneymakers for their family and it impacted their relationship.
“Their dynamic was survival-based,” Daria says.
When their father, Maurice Sr., joined the act as a musician, forming the trio of Hines, Hines, and Dad, they performed all over the country and recorded music together. But as young adults, the two brothers went their separate ways, and Hines delicately but honestly explains how their relationship unraveled.
When Gregory left the act in the early 1970s, his brother continued to cultivate his craft, incorporating jazz, African, and ballet to his arsenal, leading to his star-making role in Broadway’s Eubie in 1978. Despite the growing distance between the two, Hines helped Gregory obtain a role in Eubie to bolster his brother’s declining finances.
Soon, they were dancing together every night and Gregory went from being a wayward hippie and divorced dad to a Broadway star, scoring a Tony nomination three years in a row.
Hines’ Broadway career continued to thrive. He and Gregory also starred in the acclaimed musical Sophisticated Ladies, with Phyllis Hyman. Gregory found more success winning a Tony for Jelly’s Last Jam and gaining increasing exposure on film and TV.
Hines also become more accomplished, choreographing and directing his own shows, Uptown…It’s Hot and later, Hot Feet, based on the music of Earth, Wind & Fire.
Despite his success, in the doc, Hines and his contemporaries discuss the prejudice that Black creatives are subjected to on Broadway. Mel Johnson, Jr., Hines’ long-time friend and frequent castmate said it was Hines’ tenacity that afforded him the opportunity to direct and choreograph productions.
“It’s difficult for a person of color to get anything done on Broadway,” Johnson said.
Hines spoke candidly about his feelings about high Broadway ticket prices, the racial disparities in Tony Awards nominations and the “nasty and evil” theater critics at the New York Times. He’s also candid about his sexuality, without it dominating the narrative. He says he never felt constricted by his personal life.
“Never let anybody or anything define who you are. You define who you are. Be as happy as you can be and define who you are. Love who you are,” Hines says. “I feel very free being gay, although I don’t like to label anything. I’m Maurice. I just happen to be gay, and loving it!”
The film builds up to the professional climax of Hines and Gregory’s professional partnership. The final time they performed together onscreen was in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1984 film, Cotton Club where they play brothers based on the famed tap-dancing duo The Nicholas Brothers. After that experience, they were estranged for a decade, finally making up in 1999.
Unfortunately, their reunion was shortlived as Gregory died of liver cancer in 2003 at the age of 57.
As his 75th birthday approaches, drained from the weight of show business and the pain of living life without his brother and his parents, Hines tells Carluccio that he doesn’t want to celebrate his birthday and he welcomes death.
“Between you and I, I really don’t want to live too much longer. I’m not looking forward to it. If I live 10 more years, it would be 10 more years than I want to. I’m ready. I’ve done everything that I wanted to do,” he says.
Even at that low point of his life, Hines, who is now 78, displays optimism and charm in the doc. Seeing him interact with dance students in real time, former cast members, and lifelong friends and family, Bring Them Back shows a man with immense talent with a life lived to its capacity. It’s a brilliant film that teaches about the power of honesty, loyalty, and tenacity.
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