101 user 39 critic

The Cotton Club (1984)

2:16 | Trailer
Meet the jazz musicians, dancers, owner and guests (e.g. gangster Dutch Schultz) of The Cotton Club in 1928-30s Harlem.


Francis Ford Coppola (as Francis Coppola)


William Kennedy (screenplay), Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay) (as Francis Coppola) | 4 more credits »
4,358 ( 789)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 6 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Gere ... Dixie Dwyer
Gregory Hines ... Sandman Williams
Diane Lane ... Vera Cicero
Lonette McKee ... Lila Rose Oliver
Bob Hoskins ... Owney Madden
James Remar ... Dutch Schultz
Nicolas Cage ... Vincent Dwyer
Allen Garfield ... Abbadabba Berman
Fred Gwynne ... Frenchy Demange
Gwen Verdon ... Tish Dwyer
Lisa Jane Persky ... Frances Flegenheimer
Maurice Hines ... Clay Williams
Julian Beck ... Sol Weinstein
Novella Nelson ... Madame St. Clair
Laurence Fishburne ... Bumpy Rhodes (as Larry Fishburne)


The Cotton Club was a famous Harlem nightclub. This is the story of the people who visited this club as well as the people who ran it, and the film is generously peppered with the jazz music that made the Cotton Club so renowned in the 1920s and 1930s. Written by Colin Tinto <cst@imdb.com> with corrections by BSmith

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It was the jazz age. It was an era of elegance and violence. The action was gambling. The stakes were life and death. See more »


Crime | Drama | Music


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Over 600 people built sets, created costumes and arranged music at a reported $250,000 a day. See more »


When the film is supposed to be in 1929, both "Stormy Weather," and "Ill Wind" are performed. "Stormy Weather" was written in 1933, "Ill Wind" in 1934. See more »


Vera: I sing, tell a few jokes.
Dixie: Tell me a joke.
Vera: [laughs] Hello, sucker.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the original version, the opening credits were intercut with dancers performing "The Mooche." In the 2019 revision, the dancing is eliminated and the credits roll straight through, but have been joined with straight cuts rather than dissolves. Additionally, Coppola has changed his billing from "Francis Coppola" to "Francis Ford Coppola." Finally, restoration credits have been added after the end titles. See more »

Alternate Versions

It seems that the first murder is a bit shortened in the German Constantin Video release (FSK 16). See more »


Featured in Precious Images (1986) See more »


Back Home Again In Indiana
Lyrics by Ballard MacDonald
Music by James F. Hanley (as James E. Hanley)
See more »

User Reviews

A bold attempt to capture a fascinating era
25 February 1999 | by Jason-38See all my reviews

As a New Yorker who happens to be steeped in the lore of New York in the prohibition era, this film represents a bold attempt to capture the dynamics of the period. At times it succeeds. At other times it falls way short of the mark.

What I really admire is the fact that it deals with racial and ethnic friction honestly. The racial slurs in the dialog were part of the reality of that time. Relations between blacks and whites are not idealized. Richard Gere and Gregory Hines are neighbors and acquaintances, but are not portrayed as close friends. When Gregory Hines prevents Dutch Schultz (James Remar in a vivid characterization) from killing Richard Gere, he does it out of basic decency. Mercifully, there are none of the sentimental relationships between blacks and whites that seem so patently false in other films.

Gangland New York during the prohibition era has rarely been portrayed accurately. A worst case example was a 1991 disaster called Mobsters (a.k.a. "Young Tommy Guns"). The Cotton Club deals with real life chracters like Owney Madden (has he ever been portrayed in another film under his real name?), Big Frenchy DeMange, Arthur "Dutch Schultz" Flegenheimer, a Vincent Coll standin, Charlie ""Lucky" Luciano, "Trigger" Mike Coppola, and (at least in an early shooting script) Jack "Legs" Diamond. Richard Gere's character was loosely based on George Raft.

They were fascinating characters. At times, The Cotton Club tries to play fair with them. It almost succeeds.

On the whole, this should have been a better film. Personally, I would have preferred a film that focused on the real life gangsters with the music simply as background. The attempt to elevate the black characters to a position of equal importance in the narrative is the flaw that undoes the film. It's difficult to follow characters who have no power and little chance of gaining it. Obviously, that is not politically correct. However, I prefer for historical films to deal with life the way it really was, rather than the way some people think that it should have been.

All in all, an interesting and honorable failure.

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English | Italian

Release Date:

14 December 1984 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Tough Customers See more »

Filming Locations:

USA See more »


Box Office


$58,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,903,603, 16 December 1984

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (video) | (Encore)

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Dolby Stereo (35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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