The Life Of Mahalia Jackson Immortalized On Film

Mahailia Jackson was brought up in a strict religious atmosphere. When she was 16 she went to Chicago and joined the Greater Salem Baptist Church choir, where her remarkable contralto voice soon led to her selection as a soloist.

No one exemplifies the world of gospel like Mahalia Jackson, the genre’s first superstar, who brought gospel to a secular audience with greater success than any other artist in the field. Plans are in the works to bring the late Ms. Mahalia Jackson’s life story to the big screen. In addition a big celebration is being during the month of October to commemorate what would have been her 95th birthday. The festivities will take place in Chicago, her home of 45 years.


Joyful Noise, the Chicago production company behind the proposed movie, believes her story will appeal to audiences of all backgrounds who admire stories of heroic people who have overcome obstacles and achieved great prominence. “Mahalia!” will depict her early struggles to use her “gift from God” to sing in storefront churches and street corners, traveling the gospel circuit as a song plugger for Thomas Dorsey, the father of gospel music, during the Depression, her ultimate ascension to success, her two failed marriages, and resisting the constant, lucrative offers to sing jazz.


As a motherless child, impoverished child from the bayous, a “suds buster” and maid, the late Mahalia Jackson was honored and humbled to sing at John F. Kennedy’s presidential inauguration and for royalty and heads of state. Japanese audiences lined up for blocks waiting to buy a ticket to her performances.

While a major star has not as yet been signed, two actors have been attached to the movie: Chicago resident Irma P. Hall and Chicago native Harry Lennix. Ms. Hall will portray Hannah Robinson, the aunt who brought Mahalia to Chicago when she was 16. Mr. Lennix will play Mahalia Jackson’s first husband, Isaac “Ike” Hockenhull.