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

  “The Cotton Club” (1984)

Image result for cotton club movie

 

“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 BasieBillie Holiday,

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Cab CallowayThe Nicholas Brothers

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cotton club 1920

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.

 

Image result for cotton club 1920

 

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 – Maurice 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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Spark the Fire – What it Means to be Young!

fireglass newyears eve

This new year I’m starting out with a series of tributes to my favorite “girls rock” musical numbers from films with dynamic female leads.

This post is my salute to Diane Lane (Ellen Aim) and to one of the great bass thumping, energy boosting, heart-stirring numbers I love from the 80’s. (Giving credit where credit is due, those incredible vocals were performed by Holly Sherwood; another unsung, backup hero.)

 

 Streets of Fire 1984

 

 

My emotional connection to this song has not diminished. It’s still as powerful and meaningful to me as when I first embraced it over 20 years ago. Penning this post was difficult but also cathartic. To write this piece from truth, I had to acknowledge my own struggle to reconcile the ideal with the real. My vision of myself as the rebel, the dreamer and the one determined to not look back with regret.

“Tonight is What it Means to be Young” amplifies those feelings of that perfect love, staying true to one’s self, and the reality of having to let go.

This driving beat is palpable. It’s a CPR pumping of blood sent to both quicken and relieve the relentless pain Ellen Aim is feeling after losing the love of her life; the embodiment of her dream of an “angel.”

Rockin’ that hot red dress, she channels acceptance and remembrance of another time and another place of youth and the promise of love.

 

Streets of Fire Diane

 

I’ve got a dream when the darkness is over
We’ll be lyin’ in the rays of the sun
But it’s only a dream and tonight is for real
You’ll never know what it means
But you’ll know how it feels

It’s gonna be over
Before you know it’s begun
It’s all we really got tonight
Tonight is what it means to be young
Tonight is what it means to be young

 

 

 

 

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

  “The Cotton Club” (1984)

Cotton Club poster

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Produced by Robert Evans
Screenplay by William Kennedy
Francis Ford Coppola

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:

Among many others.

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 it’s 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.

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 – Maurice and Gregory Hines.  Clay (Maurice Hines) and Sandman (Gregory Hines) have had a major falling out and at this moment we get to share 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.”

 

Starring Richard Gere
Gregory Hines
Diane Lane
Lonette McKee
Music by John Barry

 

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.

 

Guilty Pleasures part deux – “Streets of Fire” 1984

Streets of Fire posterart

Streets of Fire starring Michael Pare and Diane Lane is my favorite “Rock n Roll Fable!”

In a town existing somewhere between the 50’s and the 80’s, this rock n roll love story revolves around the kidnapping of hometown girl turned star, Ellen Aim. Kidnapped by gang leader Raven Shaddock during her concert performance, her ex-soldier boyfriend Tom Cody arrives in town on a mission to rescue Ellen from The Bombers (Raven’s gang). Let the adventure begin!

I fantasized being Ellen Aim. Cool rock chick jammin on stage and driving the crowd wild!  Oh yeah!

And how cool was that opening number? “Nowhere Fast”. “You and me we’re going nowhere slowly. And we gotta get away from the past. There’s nothing wrong with going nowhere baby. But we should be going nowhere fast”.

 

And I love, love, loved The Sorels! An early 60’s style group in need of a break and discovered by Ellen’s manager, Billy Fish. Absolutely fantastic!  They had the moves, the energy, so effervescent!!

The Sorels:

 The Sorels Trivia:

Stoney Jackson dancer in Michael Jackson’s”Beat It” video

Robert Townsend director of Hollywood Shuffle 1987

(if you haven’t seen it you should really check it out!)

Mykelti Williamson played Bubba in Forest Gump

“If I Can Dream About You” – Recorded by Dan Hartman

 

 

And the final number, “Tonight is What It Means to be Young” still gives me goosebumps. Her heartbreak, his tortured soul at having to go.  If that isn’t a theatrical climax, then I don’t know what is.

 

Directed by Walter Hill
Produced by Lawrence Gordon
Joel Silver
Written by Walter Hill
Larry Gross
Starring Michael Paré
Diane Lane
Rick Moranis
Amy Madigan
Willem Dafoe
Elizabeth Daily
Music by Ry Cooder
Cinematography Andrew Laszlo
Editing by James Coblentz
Freeman A. Davies
Michael Ripps
Studio RKO Pictures
Universal Pictures
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates June 1, 1984
Running time 93 minutes