The Cool World (1963)

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Filmmaker Shirley Clarke ("The Connection") directs this powerful, stark semi-documentary look at the horrors of Harlem ghetto slum life filled with drugs, violence, human misery, and a ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Rony Clanton ...
Duke (as Hampton Clanton)
Carl Lee ...
Yolanda Rodríguez ...
Blood (as Clarence Williams)
Gary Bolling ...
Bostic Felton ...
Mrs. Custis
John Marriott ...
Georgia Burke ...
Marilyn Cox ...
Miss Dewpoint
Jerome Raphael ...
Mr. Shapiro
Joe Dennis ...
Douglas Thurston (as Joseph Dennis)
Ronald Perry ...
Bruce Edwards ...


Filmmaker Shirley Clarke ("The Connection") directs this powerful, stark semi-documentary look at the horrors of Harlem ghetto slum life filled with drugs, violence, human misery, and a sense of despair due to the racial prejudices of American society. There is no patronizing of the black race in this cinematic cry for justice. A fifteen-year-old boy called Duke is ambitious to buy a "piece" (a gun) from an adult racketeer named Priest, to become president of the gang to which he belongs, and to return them to active "bopping" (gang fighting) which has declined in Harlem. It is a clearly patent allegory of an attempt by Duke to attain manhood and identity in the only way accessible to him - the antisocial one. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


These are the ones who play it cool, and find out about life and love before they're in high school ! This is the picture that explodes like a time bomb In the face of a city! See more »


Crime | Drama





Release Date:

27 February 1965 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Die lässige Welt  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Film debut of Gloria Foster. See more »


References The Secret of the Purple Reef (1960) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

It's the hard knock life.
3 July 2011 | by (Groningen, The Netherlands) – See all my reviews

There once was a a movement, mostly active in New York and a period in which movies were shot very raw, in an almost documentary like style. These type of movies try to give you an insight on the daily lives of often poor and struggling ethic groups, living in a certain part of town, as if it's really a documentary you are watching. Perhaps the best and also best known example of this style of film-making was John Cassavetes' 1959 movie "Shadows".

The movie is shot in the fashion of a documentary but that really doesn't mean that it also feels like one though. It's still very obviously an acted out movie, with scripted situations in it. The approach to it all still makes it feel like a very raw and also straight-forward movie, about crime, drugs and racial issues, all set in the Harlem ghetto, in New York City.

It's not necessarily a movie that follows a clear main plot line, which is consistent with this style of film-making but it's not really something that I like. Sure, it works out real fine for 20-30 minutes or so but after a while things just start to get less interesting to follow because there isn't really anything happening within the story and it isn't ever really going anywhere. I did understand the points the movie tried to make, with its raw approach, depicting the hard and desperate life within the ghetto but it just never came across as anything provoking or powerful.

It still could had been fine if only the movie had some more intriguing and likable characters in it. I don't really feel like we ever got to know any of them, which also doesn't really make you care about any of them or what happens within the movie its story. So no, this movie just isn't for me, though I'm still able to appreciate it and admire the way it got made and shot.

So still a movie I appreciated watching, just never one I ever loved.


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