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Harlem Nights (1989) Poster

(1989)

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In the autobiography, "Pryor Convictions and Other Life Sentences (1997)", Richard Pryor states that he " . . . never connected with Eddie [Murphy]. People talked about how my work had influenced Eddie, and perhaps it did. But I always thought Eddie's comedy was mean. I used to say, "Eddie, be a little nice" and that would piss him off . . . I finished [Harlem Nights (1989)] thinking that Eddie didn't like me".
The movie starred three generations of African-American stand-up comics and actor-comedians, they being Redd Foxx (1922-1991), Richard Pryor (1940-2005) and Eddie Murphy (1961- ).
Eddie Murphy once said that the jokes and camaraderie between him, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Robin Martin [sic, Robin Harris], and Della Reese behind the scenes was much funnier than anything that was in the film.
According to Gabi Tartakovsky's 7th June 2011 article "Harlem Nights (1989): Eddie Murphy and the Original Gangsters of Black Comedy" at the Pop Matters website, "[Richard] Pryor's toning down the Sugar Ray character wasn't scripted as such, and Pryor believed his performance was the result of being bothered with a recent Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, which he kept to himself at the time".
Final cinema movie of actor-comedian Redd Foxx.
By his own admission, Eddie Murphy felt that he didn't dedicate enough thought or care to the directing of his debut. He was more concerned at the time with figuring out where the next party was going to be.
During the scene at Sugar Ray's house detective Phil Cantone falsely sings "It Don't Mean a Thing" by Duke Ellington. In real life, actor Danny Aiello is an accomplished jazz singer.
This film was made because Eddie Murphy always wanted to direct and act in a period piece. Moreover, Murphy had always wanted to work with Richard Pryor whom Murphy had considered to be the greatest influence on his work in stand-up comedy.
On the opening date of this film at the AMC Americana 8, a theater in Southfield, Michigan (on the border of Detroit), a patron shot and wounded two people inside the theater, before being killed by police officers in the parking lot. This led to the first ever movie theater in the world to install permanent metal detectors, which passing through were required for entry.
This is the only time that Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor,and Redd Foxx starred together. It was also the only film collaboration of any two of them.
The F-word and its various derivatives are spoken 133 times.
Reportedly, actor-comedian Richard Pryor once said of the film's development and pre-production period that "the potential had guys in Hollywood putting money down on new Porsches and vacation homes".
The story of white mobster Bugsy Calhoune trying to take over Sugar Ray's night club in order to control black Harlem is loosely inspired by the real feud between white gangster Dutch Schultz and his war with black gangster Bumpy Johnson over control of Harlem's lucrative "numbers" gambling rackets in the mid 1930's.
Eddie Murphy performed a number of roles on this picture. Murphy was the film's the director, executive producer, sole credited writer, top-billed lead star and actor.
An unnamed actress in the film sued Eddie Murphy for $75 million for alleged sexual harassment. The suit was unsuccessful.
Debut feature film as a director of actor-comedian Eddie Murphy. This movie remains the only ever theatrical feature film directed by Murphy.
"Harlem Nights" was also the working title for Ralph Bakshi's film, Coonskin (1975). Both films feature the crime racket in Harlem as a plot point. Star Richard Pryor was also believed to be a fan of Coonskin (1975).
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After Coming to America (1988), this was Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy's second and final film together.
Reportedly, at the global box office, the picture grossed about 3½ times the amount of its negative budget cost to produce.
The earlier Eddie Murphy movie from Paramount Pictures, 48 Hrs. (1982) was, during the late 1970s, originally designed as a vehicle for Richard Pryor as the con (with Clint Eastwood as the cop). The picture, then in development at Columbia Pictures, went into turnaround for a time, and didn't go back into development for another couple of years, where it re-surfaced at Paramount, the studio which had a near-total monopoly on Murphy movies during the 1980s, and this included both 48 Hrs. (1982) and Harlem Nights (1989).
First dramatic fictional feature film, as against concert films like Eddie Murphy: Raw (1987) and Eddie Murphy: Delirious (1983), where 'Eddie Murphy (I)' was credited as a screenwriter, and not just for concert dialogue or story, which for the latter, had been the case for both Coming to America (1988) and Beverly Hills Cop II (1987).
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After Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) and Coming to America (1988), this is the third and film in which Eddie Murphy's uncle Uncle Ray Murphy has a small acting role.
The film got Academy Award nominated for Best Costume Design but failed to win the Oscar in this category with the prize going to the historical outfits for William Shakespeare's Henry V (1989).
The movie's soundtrack featured seven classic tracks by legendary African American pianist, composer, and jazz-orchestrator Duke Ellington. The tunes, written or co-written by Ellington, were "Black Beauty", "Mood Indigo", "Take The 'A' Train", "The Gal From Joe's", "Sophisticated Lady", "Drop Me Off In Harlem", and "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)".
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This is the only film directed by Eddie Murphy.
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This was Eddie Murphy's first period film.
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One of two 1989 cinema movies starring actor-comedian Richard Pryor first released in that year. The other picture was See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989).
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Paramount wanted Robert Duvall to play Bugsy Calhoun. But Murphy insisted that Michael Lerner be cast in the role.
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Both Eddie Murphy and the movie combined received two Golden Raspberry Award nominations for the film for both Worst Director and Worst Screenplay with Murphy and the movie winning for the latter.
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The picture was filmed during April, May, June and July 1989.
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With the picture's three generations of African-American comics in lead roles, the 'Los Angeles Times' described the film as a "buddy-buddy-buddy movie".
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The movie won Worst Picture at the Hastings Bad Cinema Society's 12th Stinkers Bad Movie Awards in 1989.
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Star Billing: Eddie Murphy (1st), Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx (3rd), Danny Aiello (4th), Michael Lerner (5th), and Della Reese (6th).
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The nickname of Vernest Brown (Eddie Murphy) was "Quick" whilst the nickname of Bennie Wilson (Redd Foxx) was "Snake Eyes".
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The film was made and released about fifty-one years after its main time period in which it was set, which was 1938. Briefly during the start of the picture, the movie is set at the start twenty years earlier, in 1918, about seventy-one years prior to when the movie was made and released.
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The name of the after-hours 1930s Harlem night-club was "Club Sugar Ray".
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Cameo 

Arsenio Hall: As a Crying Man.
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