6.5/10
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31 user 21 critic

Watermelon Man (1970)

An extremely bigoted white man finds out the hard (and somewhat humorous) way what it's like being a black man, firsthand!

Director:

Melvin Van Peebles

Writer:

Herman Raucher
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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:
Godfrey Cambridge ... Jeff Gerber
Estelle Parsons ... Althea Gerber
Howard Caine ... Mr. Townsend
D'Urville Martin ... Bus Driver
Mantan Moreland ... Counterman
Kay Kimberly Kay Kimberly ... Erica
Kay E. Kuter ... Dr. Wainwright
Scott Garrett Scott Garrett ... Burton Gerber
Erin Moran ... Janice Gerber
Irving Selbst Irving Selbst ... Mr. Johnson
Emil Sitka ... Delivery Man
Lawrence Parke Lawrence Parke ... 1st Passenger
Karl Lukas Karl Lukas ... Policeman #2
Ray Ballard Ray Ballard ... 3rd Passenger
Robert Dagny 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:

His white bread world just turned upside brown! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

27 May 1970 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Night the Sun Came Out See more »

Filming Locations:

Burbank, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$1,500,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Was released the same day as "Cotton Comes To Harlem" which also starred Godfrey Cambridge. See more »

Quotes

Jeff Gerber: Come on girls get back to work or you'll be back out on the streets working for real money.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Watermelon Woman (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

Soul'd On You
Written And Performed by Melvin Van Peebles
Slide Guitar by Ry Cooder
See more »

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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 tavmSee 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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