The Cotton Club (film)

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The Cotton Club
Cotton club.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Produced by Robert Evans
Screenplay by William Kennedy
Francis Ford Coppola
Story by William Kennedy
Francis Ford Coppola
Mario Puzo
Based on The Cotton Club 
by James Haskins
Starring Richard Gere
Gregory Hines
Diane Lane
Lonette McKee
Music by John Barry
Cinematography Stephen Goldblatt
Edited by Barry Malkin
Robert Q. Lovett
Production
  company
Totally Independent Productions
American Zoetrope
Producers Sales Organization
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date(s)
  • December 14, 1984 (1984-12-14) (United States)
Running time 128 mins
Country United States
Language English
Budget $58 million
Box office $25,928,721

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

The movie was co-written (with William Kennedy) and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, choreographed by Henry LeTang, and starred Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, and Lonette McKee. The supporting cast included Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Nicolas Cage, Allen Garfield, Larry 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.[1] The film, however, also earned a Razzie Award nomination for Diane Lane as Worst Supporting Actress (also for Streets of Fire).

The Cotton Club was privately financed, paid for almost entirely by brothers Fred and Ed Doumani of Las Vegas. The movie was not successful, making only $25,928,721 on a budget of over $50 million.

Plot[edit]

A musician named Dixie Dwyer begins working with mobsters to advance his career but falls in love with the girlfriend of gangland kingpin Dutch Schultz.

A dancer from Dixie's neighborhood, Sandman Williams, is hired with his brother by the Cotton Club, a jazz club where most of the performers are black and the customers white. Owney Madden, a mobster, owns the club and runs it with his right-hand man, Frenchy.

Dixie becomes a Hollywood film star, thanks to the help of Madden and the mob but angering Schultz. He also continues to see Schultz's moll, Vera Cicero, whose new nightclub has been financed by the jealous gangster.

In the meantime, Dixie's ambitious younger brother Vincent becomes a gangster in Schultz's mob and eventually a public enemy, holding Frenchy as a hostage.

Sandman alienates his brother Clay at the Cotton Club by agreeing to perform a solo number there. While the club's management interferes with Sandman's romantic interest in Lila, a singer, its cruel treatment of the performers leads to an intervention by Harlem criminal "Bumpy" Rhodes on their behalf.

Dutch Schultz is violently dealt with by Madden's men while Dixie and Sandman perform on the Cotton Club's stage.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Inspired to make The Cotton Club by a picture-book history of the famous nightclub by James Haskins, Robert Evans was the film's original producer and also wanted to direct.[2] He hired William Kennedy and Francis Ford Coppola to re-write Mario Puzo's story and screenplay. Evans eventually decided that he did not want to direct the film and asked Coppola at the last minute.[3] Richard Sylbert claimed that he told Evans not to hire Coppola because "he resents being in the commercial, narrative, Hollywood movie business".[4] Coppola claimed that he had letters from Sylbert that ask him to work on the film because Evans was crazy. The director also said that "Evans set the tone for the level of extravagance long before I got there".[4]

Coppola accepted the jobs as screenwriter and then director because he needed the money – he was deeply in debt from making One From the Heart with his own money.[5] By the time Evans decided not to direct and brought in Coppola, at least $13 million had already been committed.[4] Las Vegas casino owners Edward and Fred Doumani put $30 million into the film. Other financial backers included Arab arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, and vaudeville promoter Roy Radin, who was eventually murdered. According to William Kennedy in an interview with Vanity Fair, the budget of the film was $47 million. However, Coppola told the head of Gaumont, Europe's largest distribution and production company, that he thought the film might cost $65 million.[2]

Author Mario Puzo was the original screenwriter and was eventually replaced by William Kennedy[5] who wrote a rehearsal script in eight days which the cast used for three weeks prior to shooting. According to actor Gregory Hines, a three-hour film was shot during rehearsals.[2]

Over 600 people built sets, created costumes and arranged music at a reported $250,000 a day.[2]

From July 15 to August 22, 1983, 12 scripts were produced, including five during one 48-hour non-stop weekend. Kennedy estimates that between 30–40 scripts were turned out.[2]

On June 7, 1984, Victor L. Sayyah filed a lawsuit against the Doumani brothers, their lawyer David Hurwitz, Evans and Orion Pictures for fraud and breach of contract.[3] Sayyah invested $5 million and claimed that he had little chance of recouping his money because the budget escalated from $25 to $58 million. He accused the Doumanis of forcing out Evans and that an Orion loan to the film of $15 million unnecessarily increased the budget. Evans, in turn, sued Edward Doumani to keep from acting as general partner on the film.[3]

Reaction[edit]

The Cotton Club was released on December 14, 1984 and grossed $2.9 million on its opening weekend, fourth place behind Beverly Hills Cop, Dune, and 2010.[6] Robert Evans took the blame for hiring Coppola while the director responded that if he had not been hired, the film would have never been made. Evans claimed that Coppola made the budget escalate dramatically by rejecting the script, hiring his own crew, and falling behind schedule.[6]

This film appeared on both Siskel and Ebert's best of 1984.[7] As of Jul 4, 2012 it holds a 74% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "NY Times: The Cotton Club". NY Times. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Scott, Jay (November 12, 1984). "Making of Cotton Club: A Legend of its Own". Globe and Mail. 
  3. ^ a b c Harmetz, Aljean (June 10, 1984). "Cotton Club Investor Sues Partners in Film". New York Times. 
  4. ^ a b c Kroll, Jack (December 24, 1984). "Harlem on My Mind". Newsweek. 
  5. ^ a b Gussow, Michael (March 22, 1984). "Parting Film Shots: Coppola and Dutch". New York Times. 
  6. ^ a b Salmans, Sandra (December 20, 1984). "Cotton Club is Neither a Smash Nor a Disaster". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ [1]

Further reading[edit]

  • Parish, James Robert (2006). Fiasco – A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 359 pages. ISBN 978-0-471-69159-4. 

External links[edit]