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The Cotton Club

The Cotton Club (1984)

December. 14,1984
| Drama Crime

Harlem's legendary Cotton Club becomes a hotbed of passion and violence as the lives and loves of entertainers and gangsters collide.


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Take this review for it's worth because I'm a sucker for some good jazz. This film is full of great jazz. The Cotton Club was a famous Jazz nightclub. It was also a hotbed of corruption and a seedy underground for the mos of the time.This film is gorgeous and its aesthetic helps to make you feel like you're in the club, bouncing along to the tunes of the day. Finally, there are some wonderful performances from Richard Gere, Diane Lane, and some great moments with Nic Cage that help to give the film structure.Go see it! You'll be tapping your foot to the music for weeks to come.


Francis Ford Coppola reunites with Mario Puzo to deliver another gangster film, this one revolving around the infamous Cotton Club in Harlem starting in the year 1928. To those hoping for another Godfather, it must have been somewhat disappointing - this is just not another Godfather movie, despite the similar milieu. The script isn't nearly as tight, and the all-star cast, despite being mostly good, isn't anywhere near as good as the Godfather ensemble. Personally, I'd take it over at least the third Godfather film any day of the week (that one was nominated for Best Picture; this film must have had similar aspirations, getting released near Christmas of 1984, but it only garnered two noms, for art direction and editing). The film is kind of Altman-esque with the way it follows multiple story lines (my first thought was "I wonder what Altman could have done with it?" but then I remember his own film of a similar vein, Kansas City, was a dud). None of them are particularly fantastic, truth be told, but all are serviceable. Richard Gere is the closest thing we have to a protagonist, as a cornet player who becomes a right-hand man to a gangster (James Remar). Diane Lane becomes romantically entangled with the both of them, but ends up with the gangster. Another plot line follows dancer Gregory Hines' romantic pursuit of the light skinned singer Lonette McKee. Bob Hoskins and Fred Gwynne play gangsters who co-own the Cotton Club. Nicolas Cage plays Gere's brother, who also becomes a gangster. The real worth of the film, though, is just the wonderful milieu and the awesome musical and dance numbers. Near the end of the film, Cab Calloway becomes the Cotton Club's premier musical talent (he's played by Larry Marshall). Perhaps this isn't great, but it's definitely worthwhile.


The 1930's was a turbulent time in America. Gangs of one sort or another tried their best to run, dominate or at least influence the bustling town. This enjoyable film is from a novel written by Jim Haskins and credits' Francis ford Coppola of 'The Godfather' fame as screenwriter and Director. Although, the basic story revolves around the power of Major Gangsters like Dutch Schultz (James Remar, Superior acting), Ellsworth 'Bumpy" Rhodes (Laurence Fishburburne) 'Lucky Luciano (Dalles Andro) Vincent 'Mad Dog' Coll (Nicolas Cage) and his brother, Dixie Dwyer, (Richard Gere), the inner story is of the famous Harlem night spot, called "The Cotton Club." Assembling the two timely ingredients together, Directer Francis Coppola blends a cavalcade of famous and infamous Hollywood Stars with historical events. The result is a fascinating, excursion through the Jazz age, complete with colorful dance routines, Tap dancing duos and orchestral classics such as Cab Calloways' (Larry Marshals) 'Minnie the Moocher.' In addition, two love stories flow neatly in between dance numbers and Machine gun bursts. Gregory Hines, Bob Hoskins and Fred Gwynne enhance the magical rhythm of this incredible journey into yester-year. Easily Recogmended. ****

Petri Pelkonen

Dixie Dwyer is a jazz musician who begins working with mobsters to advance his career.Then he goes and falls for Vera Cicero, the girlfriend of the famous Jewish gangster, Dutch Schultz.He eventually becomes a Hollywood film star.His younger brother Vincent becomes a gangster in Schultz' mob.The Cotton Club (1984) is directed by Francis Ford Coppola.It's produced by the 80-year old producer Robert Evans.In the writing team there were Coppola and Mario Puzo, writer of The Godfather novel.The movie was a flop, even though everybody had great expectations for it.Richard Gere does very good job in the lead.The part was originally offered for Sylvester Stallone, who turned it down.Coppola's nephew Nicholas Cage is great as Vincent Dwyer.Diane Lane is fantastic as Vera.The great late Gregory Hines is terrific as the dancer Sandman Williams.Lonette McKee is wonderful as his girl Lila Rose Oliver.Gregory's brother Maurice Hines is great as his film brother Clay.Her character is loosely based on Lena Horne.Bob Hoskins is brilliant as the mobster and club owner Owney Madden.Fred Gwynne is one of the kind as his right-hand man Frenchy Demange.James Remar plays Dutch Schultz and he does it with style.Great job by Allen Garfield, who plays Abbadabba Berman.Laurence Fishburne is very good as Bumpy Rhodes.Musician Tom Waits plays Irving Starck.Jennifer Grey portrays Patsy Dwyer.Diane Venora is Gloria Swanson.Bill Cobbs is Big Joe Ison.Woody Strode portrays Holmes.Robert Earl Jones is Stage Door Joe.The young Sofia Coppola is seen as Child in Street.Mario Van Peebles is Dancer.This movie is better than its reputation.It does give a good portrayal of the 1930's.The movie has got some good scenes.The drive-by shooting, where Vincent and his men accidentally kill the kid, is one of them.And so is where Vincent is shot by Schultz' men in a drugstore telephone booth.Coppola did a fine job.The result may not be a masterpiece, but a good movie anyway.