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The Five Heartbeats (1991)

R | | Drama, Music | 29 March 1991 (USA)
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The story of the rise and fall of an African American vocal group.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Duck
...
Eddie
...
J.T.
...
Dresser
...
Choirboy
...
Eleanor Potter
Harold Nicholas ...
Sarge
...
Duck's Baby Sister
John Canada Terrell ...
Michael 'Flash' Turner
Chuck Patterson ...
Jimmy Potter
...
Big Red
...
Bird
...
Baby Doll (as Troy Beyer)
Carla Brothers ...
Tanya Sawyer
...
Rose
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Storyline

In the early 1960's, a quintet of hopeful young African American men form an amateur vocal group called The Five Heartbeats. After an initially rocky start, the group improve, turn pro, and rise to become a top flight music sensation. Along the way however, the guys learn many hard lessons about the reality of the music industry with it's casual racism and greed while the personal weaknesses of the members threaten to destroy the integrity of the band. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@execulink.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

29 March 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Los Heartbeats  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Gross:

$8,750,400 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

De La Soul sampled the "Why do we have to cross over?/Why are niggas always crossing over, huh?/I mean, what's the matter?/They can accept our music as long as they can't see our faces?" dialogue for their song "Patti Dooke" from their 1993 album "Buhloone Mindstate." See more »

Goofs

During the talent show, as Choir Boy is returning to the stage (after being booed off), both JT and Duck stop singing and momentarily turn to him. Although their lips have clearly stopped moving, the song continues (it wasn't Dresser and Eddie doing the chorus, since Dresser is singing bass and Eddie is doing lead). See more »

Quotes

Big Red: Tell Jimmy he can't hide.
See more »

Connections

References New American Bandstand 1965 (1952) See more »

Soundtracks

Down for the Count
Written by Norman Harris, Alfons Kettner (as Alfonse Kettner) & Steven Moos
Produced by George Duke & Steve Tyrell
Performed by Flash & The Ebony Sparks
Lead Vocals by Demetrius Harvey
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User Reviews

"No matter how hard it gets..."
28 December 2000 | by (Arlington, VA.) – See all my reviews

By now, every film buff knows the legendary story about the plucky, tenacious indie filmmaker who maxed out all his credit cards to realize his celluloid dreams. Spike Lee was one of the directors most associated with the tale, as he completed SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT. Another was Robert Townsend, who made the hysterically biting satire HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE, about the African-American experience in Tinseltown.

Once that film became a surprise success, Townsend finally found himself a respected talent, and chose his next project accordingly. He decided to chronicle the long, hard road to success traveled by a black singing group, through several decades of triumph and tragedy. Using the personal experiences of the legendary R & B group The Dells as a blueprint, (they also served as technical advisers), Townsend hammered out a screenplay with friend and colleague Keenan Ivory Wayans, and THE FIVE HEARTBEATS is the result.

Though the film contains moments so overwrought with melodrama that they threaten to slip into parody, the issues of racism, class distinctions, greed, payola, and the ever-present lure of sex, drugs and excess that accompany celebrity status are never treated casually or simply glossed over.

Whatever plot points the script may sometimes seem to stumble over, the talented cast, lead with steadfast confidence by actor/writer/director Townsend, never miss a note or a beat, especially when helped along by a great soundtrack, supervised by jazz/funk/R&B great Stanley Clarke. Every performance is remarkable, with special mention going to the underrated Michael Wright as Eddie, the group's talented and troubled lead singer, to Leon as the group ladies' man, (whose good looks and talent have landed him in several other similar high-profile roles), and to the overlooked Hawthorne James as the malevolent "Big Red," the epitome of a man who has completely sold himself, body and soul, to the dark side of success.

Townsend also manages not to forget that between the dramatic moments, what makes a great musical is great MUSIC; songs that remind us why even though the concept of people suddenly bursting into fully orchestrated tunes defies logic, the pure, giddy sense of fun and enjoyment we derive from such moments are why musicals are a genre that simply refuse to die.

Nowhere in HEARTBEATS is it more apparent, than when Townsend and actress/singer Tressa Thomas team up on a show-stopping number called "We Haven't Finished Yet," as Duck, Townsend's character, struggles to write a song, getting some unexpected and able-bodied help from his baby sister, who nearly brings down the house! It's moments like this that make musicals memorable, and in a niche that can never have too many well-rendered stories about groups from "back-in-the-day," THE FIVE HEARTBEATS is a genuine classic that can be recommended not just to black audiences, but to moviegoers of any background who love good stories about music and musicians.


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