6.6/10
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34 user 20 critic

Watermelon Man (1970)

R | | Comedy, Drama | 27 May 1970 (USA)
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:

The Uppity Movie. 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

Althea Gerber: Will you calm down. The children will be coming home from school soon and I don't want you getting them upset.
Jeff Gerber: Upset? Wait until they find out they have a colored Daddy. Huh? Wait till I get down my knee and I sing Mammy.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Watermelon Woman (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

Where Are The Children
Written by Melvin Van Peebles
Performed by Estelle Parsons
See more »

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User Reviews

An important (if dated) comedy
21 June 2010 | by UNOhwenSee all my reviews

First - WHO's Godfrey Cambridge?!?! Yeah - he was a comedian. And a VERY funny one. Sigh.

OK, now that I've said that, let me make a couple of things understood. A lot of people who've written comments about this are either too young to remember the 60's/70's or are trying to relate to this film from today's perspective.

This film was written/directed by Melvin Van Peebles, who - at the time - was (and, by some - unfortunately) considered a 'controversial (black) artist. Second; yes, the makeup is not as good as the wonderful job done on Eddie Murphy in various films/skits, or the Wayans' brothers, but - for the make-up tech of the day - it was VERY good (look at the scene in the beginning when Godfrey's exercising (naked!), and then going to the shower. I just watched it on HD, and it still holds up VERY well (and as an aside; I saw this film first when I was about 10 - on TV. I thought upon seeing it that REALLY was a white man who became black. So, just remember that while you might not think his make-up's up to snuff now, it sure did convince an earlier generation).

Understanding when this film was made, the 'situation' of race relations at the time, and the ability for a (black) artist like Mr. Van Peebles to MAKE this film is necessary in understanding how shocking this film was - in all those areas.

Yes - the film's a bit dated (but who isn't?). But watching this film - and understanding what I've just explained makes it all the more extraordinary. Alex P (miskatonic86), and Definitedoll (just to name a couple) are some of the few who understand this film's importance.

Mr. Cambridge is/was one of the best comics. His 'babbling' - or more accuratley, his riffing on a subject was part of his stand-up style (if you'd like to see Godfrey not as a 'babbling' person, but as a (slightly ominous - and funny) character, check him out in THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST, or in COTTON COMES TO HARLEM. , amongst other appearances.

He's sorely missed, by me and many others who've seen him either on such shows as ED SULLIVAN, THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, I SPY amongst MANY other shows. If not, you can see this huge talent's work on YouTube (YouTube's a GREAT resource for educating yourself about not current performers and artists. It's NOT just a place to look at ...cat's playing pianos, and other garbage).

As a glimpse (by a black artist!) into the 'white man's world,' and the world in general - at that time - Mr. Van Peebles should be given his deserved recognition (and Godfrey, we miss you!).


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