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Watermelon Man (1970)

R | | Comedy, Drama | 27 May 1970 (USA)
An extremely bigoted white man finds out the hard (and somewhat humorous) way what it's like being a black man, firsthand!

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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Jeff Gerber
...
Althea Gerber
...
Mr. Townsend
D'Urville Martin ...
Bus Driver
...
Kay Kimberly ...
Erica
...
Dr. Wainwright
Scott Garrett ...
Burton Gerber
...
Janice Gerber
Irving Selbst ...
Mr. Johnson
...
Delivery Man
Lawrence Parke ...
1st Passenger
Karl Lukas ...
Policeman #2
Ray Ballard ...
3rd Passenger
Robert Dagny ...
2nd Passenger
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Storyline

Jeff Gerber, an insurance agent, lives in a typical suburban neighborhood. He is also both racist and a fitness freak. But Jeff's bigoted world of taunting and harassing black people on and off the job is turned upside down when his skin inexplicably turns dark overnight. As Jeff tries to come to terms with this unexplained phenomenon that has befallen him, he soon becomes the victim himself when all of his friends and neighbors suddenly shun and harass him. This puts a strain on his marriage and loyal wife Althea, who begins to crack under the pressure. When all medical attempts to change his skin back to his former color fail, Jeff accepts that Kharma has caught up with him. Jeff tries to see the light of being a persecuted black man in this cruel and segregated world with the help of some of some new black friends, some of whom were people he, as a white man, taunted and harassed. Written by matt-282

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A very funny thing happened to Jeff Gerber. It won't happen to you, so you can laugh. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

R

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

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Release Date:

27 May 1970 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Night the Sun Came Out  »

Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Mae Clarke's final film. See more »

Quotes

Jeff Gerber: I'm colored, Mr. Townsend. I'm a Negro.
Mr. Townsend: Gerber, what the hell have you been doing - sitting under a sunlamp?
Jeff Gerber: Oh that's the nicest thing you ever said to me, sir.
Mr. Townsend: Did you get that tan in just the two days you were out?
Jeff Gerber: Yes, yes I did - uh, the secret is soy sauce - lots and lots of soy sauce.
Mr. Townsend: Don't you think you overdid it a bit?
Jeff Gerber: Yes... yes I do, I really do. It - it was a frightening experience.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Watermelon Woman (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

Where Are The Children
Written by Melvin Van Peebles
Performed by Estelle Parsons
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User Reviews

 
Melvin Van Peebles' Watermelon Man starring Godfrey Cambridge provides plenty of ironic humor concerning stereotypes
27 February 2011 | by (Baton Rouge, La.) – See all my reviews

Continuing to review African-Americans in film in chronological order for Black History Month, we're still in 1970 when director Melvin Van Peebles makes his first major studio feature having previously done a critically acclaimed independent one called Story of a Three Day Pass. He casts comedian Godfrey Cambridge as Jeff Gerber who we initially meet as an obnoxious white insurance man-along with wife Althea (Estelle Parsons) and their two kids of different genders-who likes to run when leaving for his job in order to beat the bus. By the way, the light-skinned makeup on Cambridge is about as convincingly white on him as it was on Eddie Murphy in the "White Like Me" short film he did on "Saturday Night Live", that is, not much. Anyway, when the change comes, well, that's when all hell breaks loose! Now, knowing what I know about ironic humor concerning stereotypes, I found the whole thing just a little over-the-top and, you know what? I also found the whole thing hilarious! I mean, how can you not laugh at the attempts Godfrey keeps making to turn himself "back" like drinking lots of milk or putting his face in plaster. Plus, there's many funny sudden turns from now-"brothers" like the bus driver played by D'Urville Martin who claims to be Hispanic or Mantan Moreland as the counterman at his regular eatery who, when asked to look at his skin, says, "I don't need to look at your skin, I can see my own!" And wait till you see how Three Stooges regular supporting player Emil Sitka reacts when he gets attacked by Jeff over some new sunlamps! Not to mention Jeff's bed scenes with a flirtatious secretary named Erica (Kay Kimberly). I think I've said enough so all I'll say now is that Van Peebles provides much funny stuff from Herman Raucher's script in addition to his own contributions with his occasionally distorted score. So on that note, Watermelon Man comes highly recommended. P.S. It's quite interesting seeing who's also in this movie besides those I've already mentioned like singer/songwriter Paul Williams-here credited with the middle initial H-as an employment clerk or a young girl named Erin Moran-later to portray the teen Joanie Cunningham on "Happy Days"-as daughter Janice Gerber.


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