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Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970)

 -  Action | Comedy  -  27 May 1970 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 882 users  
Reviews: 24 user | 14 critic

Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are two black cops with a reputation for breaking the odd head. Both are annoyed at the success of the Reverend Deke O'Mailey who is selling trips ... See full summary »



(based upon the novel by), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Title: Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970)

Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) on IMDb 6.5/10

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Godfrey Cambridge ...
Raymond St. Jacques ...
Rev. Deke O'Malley
Judy Pace ...
Uncle Budd / Booker Washington Sims
Emily Yancy ...
Capt. Bryce
Lou Jacobi ...
Lt. Anderson
Mabel Robinson ...
Dick Sabol ...
Lo Boy
Teddy Wilson ...
Barry (as Theodore Wilson)
Maxwell Glanville ...


Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are two black cops with a reputation for breaking the odd head. Both are annoyed at the success of the Reverend Deke O'Mailey who is selling trips back to Africa to the poor on the installment plan. When his truck is hijacked and a bale of cotton stuffed with money is lost in the chase, Harlem is turned upside down by Gravedigger and Coffin Ed, the Reverend, and the hijackers. Much of the humor is urban black, which was unusual in 1970. Written by John Vogel <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

cotton | chase | black cop | loot | police | See more »


Introducing COFFIN ED and GRAVEDIGGER, two detectives only a mother could love.


Action | Comedy


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



Release Date:

27 May 1970 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Cotton Comes to Harlem  »

Box Office


$1,200,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


(DeLuxe Color)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


During the car chase, the mirror on the driver's side of the police car gets shot off. Once the police car collides with the watermelon cart a few seconds later, the mirror reappears. See more »


Barry: Was that black enough for you?
Uncle Bud: It ain't, but it's gonna be.
See more »


Referenced in C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004) See more »


Music by Galt MacDermot
Lyrics by'Paul Laurence Dunbar'
Sung by Melba Moore
See more »

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User Reviews

Great Cast!
14 May 2004 | by (Valencia, Spain) – See all my reviews

COTTON has an incredible cast of actors. Just watching it on cable recently it was a tremendous blast from the past to see so many great actors from the 1960s in this movie. COTTON is an entertaining morality tale with some bits of comedy, sarcasm, and some social commentary throw in.

Redd Foxx and Cleavon Little are two of the better known comedians, but the main characters are played by Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques. Some of the actors in this film were also in LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) three years later. Henry Morgan (McCloud's Chief of Police) plays a mean-spirited hoodlum in this film. However, even his evil character is a bit goofy.

Not that COTTON is a comedy, there is plenty of shooting and killing to qualify it as a Police Procedural type of film. However, COTTON mixes the comedy, commentary, and edgy humor with the drama and the violence in a way that few movies can do.

In fact, as I watched COTTON it occurred to me that it was a very ambitious film. It really tried to do a lot of things that most movies can rarely accomplish. COTTON probably falls into the Blaxploitation genre because the formula is essentially pro-White which is what characterized the Blaxploitation apart from the "SWEET BADDASS" type of anti-establishment films.

The two main characters are black Detectives and the white Police Officers and Detectives are either racists or else goofballs (similar to the white Police Officer who used to appear in the SANFORD AND SON TV series).

The main evil character is a black preacher who has swindled his flock, but lost the money. The search is on for the $87,000. The small amount of money seems to be a shot at the poverty of "the Ghetto." The Mafia Boss character tells the Detectives that he makes much more than $87,000 from crime in The Ghetto every day; but meanwhile the small town Ghetto crooks (of both white and black races) are willing to kill each other (several die) over the same money.

Some disturbing things in this film are that the Preacher (Calvin Lockhart) at one point starts slapping around a couple of women and his girlfriend Iris (played by Judy Pace) is portrayed as a jealous psychopath (she plays her role with a something of a comic slant).

COTTON is a very compelling movie. It is a slice of history, it has great actors, and it has a complicated story that can be interpreted in more ways than one.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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