37 user 26 critic

Watermelon Man (1970)

R | | Comedy | 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!


Melvin Van Peebles


Herman Raucher
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win. See more awards »




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 ... Policeman #2
Ray Ballard Ray Ballard ... 3rd Passenger
Robert Dagny Robert Dagny ... 2nd Passenger


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


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




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Mae Clarke's final film. See more »


Erica: There's something I didn't do?
Jeff Gerber: Ah, no, uh, offhand, there's nothing I can think of that, uh, we forgot.
Erica: Then vhy are you leaving?
Jeff Gerber: Well, I can't expect you to understand, Erica.
Erica: Explain. I vill try. I vill try anything to please you.
Jeff Gerber: ok. try and understand that, uh, beauty is only skin deep. i want you to love me because of what i am, not because i'm a negro.
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Referenced in The Watermelon Woman (1996) See more »


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

User Reviews

Essential movie. It's not perfect - but must be seen.
10 February 2004 | by Wm LambeSee all my reviews

Cambridge does an interesting lob playing a white man turned into a black man, but Van Peebles evidently wanted to make some pejorative assessments of both cultures. The negativity of the film is offset by slapstick and schtik - like the moment of awareness of the transition when Gerber goes to the bathroom in the middle of the night and when he gets off the toilet, a big black rear end fills the screen. The transition, itself, is never adequately explained: recessive gene gone berserk, sardonic God teaching a lesson, who knows?

The sad part of the film is the inability to ever find purchase in the community. Not everyone is bigoted but they are all portrayed as one big cliché. Any normal unbiased people are immediately put off by the reprehensible actions of Cambridge - so there are no friends or allies except of the same race - or more purely - of the same anger.

How nice this movie could have been if Van Peebles had allowed Gerber to rise to the top in spite of everything - to showcase hope instead of futility.

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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 »


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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