It was the Jazz age. It was an age of Elegance and Violence.

¬†¬†“The Cotton Club” (1984)

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“The Cotton Club” is a 1984 American crime-drama film centered on a Harlem jazz club of the 1930s, the Cotton Club.

The film was co-written by Francis Ford Coppola with William Kennedy, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and produced by Robert Evans. Choreographed by Henry LeTang, the movie starred Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, and Lonette McKee. The supporting cast included Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Nicolas Cage, Allen Garfield, Laurence Fishburne, Gwen Verdon and Fred Gwynne.

Despite performing poorly at the box office, the film was nominated for several awards, including Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Picture (Drama) and Oscars for Best Art Direction (Richard Sylbert, George Gaines) and Film Editing. (Wikipedia)

 

 

I remember looking forward to screening this film. ¬†I understood the significance of The Cotton Club¬†during the Harlem¬†Renaissance¬†of the 20’s and 30’s and wanted the 1980’s audience to be curious about the history of the real club and incredible level of talent that appeared there between 1923 – 1940.

Some of the original performers at The Cotton Club included:

Lena Horne

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Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

 

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Count Basie, Billie Holiday,

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Cab Calloway, The Nicholas Brothers

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Cab Calloway

 

Among many others.

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The movie is intense. Producer Robert Evans originally wanted to direct the project but later asked Coppola. ¬†There are definite similarities to “The Godfather” in the film due to its violent nature and also the fact that Mario Puzo (author of The Godfather) wrote the original story and screenplay.

Gangsters, racism and love, this film exposes them all.  I do, however, wish more of the movie focus was on The Cotton Club itself and the lives of those characters.

 

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The story centers around the dangerous love affair of Dixie Dwyer (Richard Gere) and Vera Cicero (Diane Lane). ¬†She “belongs” to mobster Dutch Schultz (James Remar). ¬†Dutch is a straight up¬†psychopath¬† ¬†We also follow the budding romance between Sandman Williams (Gregory Hines) and Lila Rose Oliver (Lonette McKee). ¬†He wants to get married. ¬†She wants to be a “Star.” ¬†(She’s also hiding a secret about her “other life.”)

Watch and listen as Lonette McKee, also from the movie (“Sparkle”), delivers a taste of the film’s 1930’s Harlem.

The song: “Ill Wind (You’re Blowing Me No Good)” ¬†Composed by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Ted Koehler. ¬†It was written for their last show at The Cotton Club in 1934.

 

 

 

One of the most memorable scenes is between the real life and onscreen brothers РMaurice and Gregory Hines.  Clay (Maurice Hines) and Sandman (Gregory Hines) have had a major falling out and at this moment we get to share in their reunion.

 

Growing up, this old school tap dancing duo was compared to The Nicholas Brothers. Gregory Hines remarked in an interview that after seeing The Nicholas Brothers perform that “nobody was going to be the next Nicholas Brothers, least of all my brother and I.”

 

 

Explore the 1984 film but more importantly explore the controversial history of The Cotton Club and the entertainers and music that fueled the Jazz generation.

 

 

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2 responses to “It was the Jazz age. It was an age of Elegance and Violence.

  1. I remember being in St. Thomas, VI in 1985 with my wife. As we checked into the hotel, I recognized an elderly gentleman and his companion checking out. It was Cab Calloway. But I could not speak. Even though this was a year after the Cotton Club’s release, all I could think of was the Blues Brothers. I knew his history and thoroughly enjoyed the life he brought to his jazz productions. I vowed not to sully his legacy by mentioning the mindless representation of his life’s work. All I did was say hello and wished him a pleasant day. Since then I tried to know more about the historical greats. They brought their magic to us. I vowed not to forget to acknowledge that greatness in their presence if I am ever blessed again to be in its company.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was quite the moment! I couldn’t move or speak from such tremendous awe. He’s music royalty and it felt unreal being next to him! It was hilarious too because I’m rarely at a loss for words.ūüėĄ

      Liked by 1 person

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