Hitsville: the Making of Motown

Hitsville: the Making of Motown

Benjamin Turner (2019)

12A Certificate
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Our Score
This documentary is an unabashedly self-congratulatory profile of Detroit's soulful, civil-rights-defying Motown label, focusing in particular on its unimpeachable late-1950s/60s glory years before founder Berry Gordy relocated operations to Los Angeles. Gordy and former in-house genius Smokey Robinson act as irrepressible tour guides, burnishing anecdotes in the former clapboard shack that's now a museum. Realised using smart graphics by Brit co-directors Benjamin and Gabe Turner, Hitsville gladly exploits Motown's extant icons (Martha Reeves, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, various Jacksons), whose trotted-out testimony is knitted into captivating live footage. There's also remarkable audio of an actual Motown "quality control" meeting from June 1967, when Top 10 hit Ain't No Mountain High Enough is about to be joined in the charts by the Supremes, Four Tops, Stevie Wonder and the Temptations. Gordy's rift with Diana Ross and Michael Jackson's later issues are airbrushed out of the story, but when songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland describe themselves as "a factory within a factory", it's not facetious. (Gordy's corporate maxims included "competition breeds champions" and "innovate or stagnate".) When the records sound like Get Ready and Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours, who's complaining?


Rare performances, interviews and rarely seen footage come together to paint a picture of the history and origins of Motown.

Cast & Crew

Berry Gordy Berry Gordy Jr
Smokey Robinson Smokey Robinson
John Legend John Legend
Lamont Dozier Lamont Dozier
Jamie Foxx Jamie Foxx
Neil Young Neil Young (1)
Martha Reeves Martha Reeves
Director Benjamin Turner
Director Gabe Turner
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Other Information

Language: EnglishColourTheatrical distributor: AltitudeGuidance: racist languageAvailable on: DVD and Blu-rayReleased on: 4 Oct 2019