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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.


(as Francis Coppola)


(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 overview, first billed only:
Bumpy Rhodes (as Larry Fishburne)


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


Welcome to The Cotton Club. Where Crime Lords rub elbows with the rich and famous. Where deals are made, lives are traded. And the legends of jazz light up the night. See more »


Crime | Drama | Music


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

14 December 1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tough Customers  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$58,000,000 (estimated)


$25,900,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (video)

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


At one point relations were so strained between director Francis Ford Coppola and producer Robert Evans that Coppola had Evans banned from the set. See more »


During the montage song Ill Wind there is a shot of coins and bills being poured out. The dimes in the shot are Eisenhower dimes, a president in the 50's. See more »


Vera: I sing, tell a few jokes.
Dixie: Tell me a joke.
Vera: [laughs] Hello, sucker.
See more »


Edited into The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002) See more »


Drop Me Off In Harlem
Words by Nick Kenny
Music by Duke Ellington
Piano Solo: Mark Shane
Trombone Solo: Britt Woodman
1st and 3rd Trumpet Solos: Randy Sandke
2nd Trumpet Solo: Dave Brown
4th Trumpet Solo: Lew Soloff
Clarinet Solo: Bob Wilber
See more »

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User Reviews

Underrated With A Great James Remar Performance
20 February 2016 | by (Quis Ut Deus ?) – See all my reviews

Spoilers Ahead:

First, in deference to the detractors, what killed this movie were two good looking people who were terrible actors: Lane and Gere. We simply spend too much time on their pants and skirts and who is or isn't going to blaze on the other. It turned off both audiences, my crowd: gangster fans and the musical jazz people who loved the music and dancing. One of the paradoxes of the Other Directed Society is this block-headed thumbs up or down. Remar is worth owning the movie for, look, I like Hoffman but his Schultz, in Billy Bathgate, was just terrible. Remar will really stun you how menacing he is here conveying perfectly the sociopathic Dutch Schultz. In one horrifying sequence, at a food table, he grabs a butcher's knife and stabs a rival gangster; he is shaking, drenched in blood, Madden almost kills him on the spot; Frenchy holds a gun on him and you can tell Madden is thinking it over. This is my favorite part of the movie, Coppola knew how to do organized crime; when the movie focuses upon the Cotton Club, Madden, Luciano, Schultz it shines brightly. Trust me, I read lots of books on the Mafia, being part Italian, this is the best depiction of Dutch Schultz in any movie. It is approached by Roth in Hoodlum, I simply hated the rest of that movie. Also, while Roth conveys his coldness, there is not quite the volcanic murderous outbursts Remar does so well here.

The musical parts are spectacular with the late Hines and his brother doing fantastic tap dancing; there is a great reunification of the two estranged brothers near the end that is so well done. What kills the movie is the romance, which should have been tangential, is center stage. Yes, they are good looking people but neither one could ever act one scene. Coppola gets wooden readings out of both of them, for me, the rest of the movie is good enough to overcome this flaw. Please, look at the supporting cast: Hoskins, Cage, Gwynne, Garfield, Fishburne, even old reliable John P. Ryan. If you are going to watch this, ask yourself what kind of movie you are expecting? The romance is dreadful, stilted and boring; the gangster and music parts are a nine star movie. Admittedly, often when you get wrapped up in the music or gangster parts, off on a tangent we go with Dixie and Vera. The core of the movie for me is Madden, Dutch with Vincent flying off the handle and creating a crisis which brings about the eventual demise of Dutch at Luciano's hands. The etiology of Dutch's demise here is completely specious; in reality, Dewey was about to indict Dutch and he had the stupidity to tell Lucky he planned on shooting all thirty five witnesses to his maleficence. This is why Lucky killed him, no ripples in the water for the organization.

As a reviewer, this is as pithy as I can distill it, a first rate gangster and Cotton Club musical interpolated with some cringe worthy badly acted romantic scenes. These are few enough that I have always overlooked them, the rest is so good. I cannot emphasize how well done the music and dance numbers are, you feel like you are there. Hine's romance actually was done much better than Dixie and Vera. If you are a pure romance viewer, going into this, it will really annoy you for the romance is quite background here. You will resent and be bored by the music and gangster main thrust of Francis Ford Coppola. I never expect perfection from any movie, the good parts in this are redemptive enough for me to tolerate parts I dislike. The Vincent part with Frenchy's kidnapping and Madden's reuniting with him is endearing enough, alone, to own this old underrated classic. The gangster story being my favorite, for the musical part to be appreciated by someone who does not like Jazz tells you how good it is. I can tell you this, you will never see a better delineation of Dutch Schultz, Remar nails him. The volcanic, violent psycho he was is right there, what a piece of acting. An Underrated Movie. Q.E.D.

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