In honor of Black History Month, I’ll be featuring films either starring or representing African American themes.
My second film, “The Five Heartbeats” (1991) is a rousing, slice of 60’s R&B music and reminiscent of groups like The Temptations and the Four Tops. Growing up in the 60’s in Motown, this film speaks to me and brings back wonderful memories of the times and the music. Another Robert Townsend production which he wrote directed and starred, it does not disappoint in energy or the drama of the music industry.
Inspired by the R&B group The Dells, it is co-written by Keenan Ivory Wayans and Robert Townsend. The movie also features 40’s tap dance icon Harold Nicholas (Nicholas Brothers) as Ernest “Sarge” Johnson in his final film as the group’s spunky choreographer.
After extensive research with R&B singing group The Dells, who were renowned for their four-decade career, Townsend used his film to depict a similar story, following the lives of five friends who aspire to musical stardom. Given the setting of the film, he was able to tie in other elements, such as race relations, as well.
The music (by Stanley Clarke) is phenomenal and a soundtrack for the film was released by Virgin Records, featuring original music by various artists. Both “Nights like This” and “A Heart Is a House for Love” became top 20 hits on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart. The film received an ASCAP award for Most Performed Songs in a Motion Picture for the song “Nights Like This.”
The Five Heartbeats:
Robert Townsend as Donald “Duck” Matthews
Leon as J.T. Matthews
Michael Wright as Eddie Kane Jr.
Tico Wells as Anthony “Choir Boy” Stone
Harry J. Lennix as Terrence “Dresser” Williams
For an evening of great R&B music and entertainment, grab some snacks and fire up “The Five Heartbeats”.