Age is a matter of attitude

That would seem to be the message of Heather Lyn MacDonald's new documentary "Been Rich All My Life," which opened Friday in New York. MacDonald spent several years following the Silver Belles, a group of women dancers whose careers began in Harlem in the '20s and '30s, but who refuse to hang up their tap shoes as they gradually approach their eighties and nineties. The Silver Belles and their supporters gave MacDonald pretty complete access and the result is a film whose charm lies in both the sparkling personalities of its protagonists and in their delicious candor. They have undergone all the pleasures and disappoints that an entertainer can have in life and all of them have achieved a blessedly mellow viewpoint of the world. More than that, they can still dance pretty damned well. MacDonald never condescends to the Belles, and one suspects that if she had, they would have kicked her butt good and hard. Back when they were among the most beautiful chorus girls in Harlem -- indeed, judging from the photos they proudly display, I would say in all of New York -- they enjoyed life to the fullest and didn't suffer fools. Clearly nothing has changed. MacDonald tells this story with considerable vigor. I could have done without a few of the artier touches (a point-of-view shot of one of the women falling down subway stairs is really over the top), but for the most part, she lets the Silver Belles do all the talking, dancing and jiving. The result is a perfect complement to George T. Nierenberg's "No Maps on My Taps," a loving ode to the great, dying art of jazz dance as practiced by some of its greatest artists. It is at the Quad Cinemas in Manhattan.

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