We are all saddened by the passing of Whitney Houston. I was particularly stunned because she was just 2 years younger than I. In a way, we grew up together. I watched her career as a songstress skyrocket and I danced to her music whenever I heard it. Her talent was a gift, a treasure and it will be sorely missed.
Whitney’s film career was limited. She made only three films in her short life, all made during the peak of her singing career. The first and arguably the best of the three was 1992’s “The Bodyguard” in which she appeared opposite Kevin Costner. The film chronicles the life of a beloved pop diva (Houston) who is receiving death threats. The handlers hire a bodyguard (Costner) and the two are at odd almost immediately even though the chemistry is evident.
The film is a vehicle for singing talents and launched one of the most successful soundtracks of all time. Her single “I Will Always Love You” was the number one song of the year as was the soundtrack. As for her acting, there were moments when her inexperience showed but overall lit was respectable debut film which paved the way for the other two.
Determined to demonstrate she could act without relying on her vocals, Houston’s next film was 1995’s “Waiting to Exhale,” an ensemble piece about the lives of four affluent African-American women. The focus of the film was on the relationships they each had with the men in their lives and with one another. Houston played Savannah Jackson, a television producer who lives under the delusion that her married lover will one day leave his wife for her. Co-starring Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon and Loretta Devine, the film was directed by Forest Whitaker and was another box office smash hit.
Houston’s third venture into acting was 1996’s “The Preacher’s Wife,” a remake of the 1947 hit “The Bishop’s Wife” with Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young in the role of the wife. In this updated version, Houston played Julia, wife of Baptist preacher Rev. Henry Biggs (Courtney B. Vance). The strain of running the church and dealing with its financial problems put a strain on the couple’s marriage. Enter Denzel Washington as the angel Dudley sent to answer Biggs’s prayer for help. The trouble begins when Dudley begins to fall for Julia. Houston gets to share her vocal talents in several gospel numbers in the film.
Critics were not overly impressed with the performances of Houston & Washington but the film still did reasonably well. For fans of Houston, it is definitely worth seeing, maybe even annually.
Houston’s musical career continued to thrive for a few more years but she made no more movies. Her tumultuous marriage to R&B singer Bobbi Brown, which began in 1992 and involved a domestic dispute charge along the way, ended in 2006. Her drug and alcohol use grew increasingly worse and may have contributed to ending her film career. The abuses are blamed for the ravages her once spectacular singing voice underwent as could be heard in her performances over the last few years.
Whatever the cause of Houston’s death is determined to be, her life was cut far too short as she was a woman who had a lot to give, onscreen and off.