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The Cotton Club (1984)

The Cotton Club was a famous night club in Harlem. The story follows the people that visited the club, those that ran it, and is peppered with the Jazz music that made it so famous.

Director:

(as Francis Coppola)

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(screenplay), (screenplay) (as Francis Coppola) | 4 more credits »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Novella Nelson ...
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Bumpy Rhodes (as Larry Fishburne)
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Storyline

The Cotton Club was a famous night club in Harlem. The story follows the people that visited the club, those that ran it, and is peppered with the Jazz music that made it so famous. Written by Colin Tinto <cst@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

It was the jazz age. It was an era of elegance and violence. The action was gambling. The stakes were life and death. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Music

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

14 December 1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tough Customers  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$58,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$25,900,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (video)

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The platform observation railroad car shown leaving Grand Central Terminal at the end of the movie, was the private car Lehigh Valley 353 out of Syracuse, New York. See more »

Goofs

When Dixie goes to ransom Frenchy there is a different amount of shaving cream on Mad Dog's face in every shot. See more »

Quotes

Vera: I was born looking 18.
Dixie: I can save you.
Vera: No, you can't.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Cannes Man (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Minnie The Moocher
Words and Music by Cab Calloway and Irving Mills
Vocals: Larry Marshall
Chorus: The Boys in The Band
Trumpet Solos: Lew Soloff
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User Reviews

 
All That Jazz
26 August 2007 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

Part fictional and part non-fictional, this lavish two-hour Francis Ford Coppola film spotlights the Cotton Club, the legendary, real-life Harlem jazz nightclub that flourished in the Prohibition era of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Richard Gere plays Dixie Dwyer, a young musician who works for mobsters, in an effort to advance his career. Dwyer falls in love with Vera Cicero (Diane Lane), the girlfriend of gangster Dutch Schultz (James Remar). The Dwyer character is based loosely on real-life jazz trumpet player Bix Beiderbecke.

Throughout the film, various gangsters and bootleggers interact, sometimes violently, but much of the action centers around the Cotton Club, an establishment owned in real-life by Owney Madden, played in the film by actor Bob Hoskins. Madden would bring in Black performers to entertain a Whites-only clientèle, a truly racist policy, and a major plot point in the film's story.

The film's plot is somewhat muddled, the result of a less than stellar screenplay. And, as you would expect, the gangster characters are not terribly likable. But the film overcomes these script weaknesses with a captivating visual and musical style that is both tawdry and elegant. The corruption, the violence, and the implied sleaze are garish and tawdry to be sure. Yet, the Club's ambiance gushes with a certain elegance and glamour. It's a strange mix, but one that is entirely consistent with that era in U.S. history.

The film gets points from me for its lush, period piece costumes and production design, and adroit lighting, as well as all those jazz numbers, both sultry and flashy. Gregory Hines together with brother Maurice Hines provide some snappy tap dancing, some of which is improvised. Interestingly, their grandmother really did perform at the Cotton Club during its heyday. Also of interest in the film, viewers get to watch towering Fred Gwynne, who plays Frenchy, the oh-so-serious assistant to Owney Madden; the two of them engage in some interesting dialogue.

Although the script's story and characters are less than ideal, I enjoyed the film a lot, mostly as a result of the tawdry and elegant visual style combined with the lavish jazz numbers. If you're interested in gangster movies or the Prohibition era of American history, this film is a must-see.


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