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The Cotton Club Details


Combining electric song and dance performances with drama (both on and off screen), Francis Ford Coppola's The Cotton Club (1984) looks back to the 1920s-1930s peak of the legendary Harlem nightclub where only blacks performed and only whites could sit in the audience. Mixing historical figures with characters loosely based on actual people, Coppola and co-writers William Kennedy and William Kennedy's Mario Puzo create a panorama of love, crime, and entertainment centered on the Club. Among them are cornet player Dixie Dwyer (Richard Gere, playing his own solos), who escapes psycho gangster "benefactor" Dutch Schultz (James Remar) for a George Raft-type Hollywood career as a gangster film star; Schultz's nubile mistress Vera Cicero (Diane Lane), who loves Dixie against her mercenary instincts; Cotton Club Mob owner Owney Madden (Bob Hoskins) and close associate Frenchy Demarge (Fred Gwynne); Vincent (Nicolas Cage), Dixie's no-good Mad Dog Coll-esque brother; Club tap star Sandman Williams (Gregory Hines), who woos ambitious light-skinned Club singer Lila Rose Oliver (Lonette McKee); and cameos by Charles "Honi" Coles and Cab Calloway impersonator Larry Marshall. Complementing the period story, Coppola evokes the style of '30s gangster movies and musicals through an array of old-fashioned devices like montages of headlines, songs and shoot-outs. Conceived by producer Robert Evans as his crowning achievement and directorial debut, Evans had to hand over the troubled production to Coppola, but the budget spiraled out of control as the script was repeatedly re-written throughout the chaotic shoot. By the time it was released, The Cotton Club's epic production story of power struggles, financial bloat, and even a murder overshadowed the "reunion" of William Kennedy's creative team. Neither a Robert Evans-sized failure nor a wallet-saving hit like Coppola's Robert Evans, The Cotton Club got some favorable critical notices (although it drew fire for subordinating the African American stories). It did not, however, find a large enough audience to justify its expense and controversy, becoming another mark against 1970s "auteur" cinema in increasingly blockbuster-driven 1980s Hollywood. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi


Awarded by
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Barry Malkin Best Editing 1984 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Richard Sylbert Best Art Direction 1984 Nominee
Hollywood Foreign Press Association Francis Ford Coppola Best Director 1984 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Robert Q. Lovett Best Editing 1984 Nominee


Richard Gere
as Dixie Dwyer
Gregory Hines
as Sandman Williams
Diane Lane
as Vera Cicero
Lonette McKee
as Lila Rose Oliver
Bob Hoskins
as Owney Madden
James Remar
as Dutch Schultz
Nicolas Cage
as Vincent Dwyer
Allen Garfield
as Abbadabba Berman
Fred Gwynne
as Frenchy Demange
Lisa Jane Persky
as Frances Flegenheimer
Novella Nelson
as Madame St. Clair
Tom Waits
as Irving Stark
Wynonna Smith
as Winnie Williams
Woody Strode
as Holmes
Bruce MacVittie
as Vince Hood
Gwen Verdon
as Mrs. Tish Dwyer
Bruce Howard
as Bumpy Hood
Glenn Withrow
as Ed Popke
Giancarlo Esposito
as Bumpy Hood
Rosalind Harris
as Fanny Brice
Vincent Jerosa
as James Cagney
James Russo
as Vince Hood
Mario Van Peebles
as Dancer
Tom Signorelli
as Butch Murdock
Ed Rowan
as Messiah
Sarita Allen
as Dancer
Diane Venora
as Gloria Swanson
Brian Tarantina
as Vince Hood
Dayton Allen
as Solly
Kim Chan
as Ling
Sandra Beall
as Myrtle Fay
Robert Earl Jones
as Stage Door Joe
Laurence Fishburne
as Bumpy Rhodes
Bill Cobbs
as Bib Joe Ison
Joe Dallesandro
as Charles "Lucky" Luciano
Jordan Derwin
Rony Clanton
as Caspar Holstein
Jacquelyn Bird
as Dancer
Thelma Carpenter
as Norma Williams
Wendy Edmead
as Dancer
Bill Graham
as J.W.
Susan Mechsner
as Gypsie
Ron Karabatsos
as Mike Best
Sonia Hensley
as Dancer
Damien Leake
as Bub Jewett
Tracey Bass
as Dancer
Randle Mell
as Policeman #2
Zane Mark
as Duke Ellington
Nick Corri
Jennifer Grey
as Patsy Dwyer
Paul Herman
as Policeman #1
Ed O'Ross
as Monk
Leonard Termo
as Danny
George Cantero
as Vince Hood
Steve Vignari
as Trigger, Mike Coppola
Ed Zang
as Clerk
Joe Lynn
as Marcial Flores
John Ryan
as Joe Flynn
Nicholas J. Giangiulio
as Screen Test Thug
Carla Earle
as Dancer
Marc Coppola
as Ted Husing
Tucker Smallwood
as Kid Griffin


Francis Ford Coppola
Robert Evans
Francis Ford Coppola
Mario Puzo
Screen Story
Mario Puzo
Stephen Goldblatt
John Barry
Composer (Music Score)
Robert Q. Lovett
Barry Malkin
Richard Sylbert
Production Designer
Gregory W.M. Bolton
Art Director
David Chapman
Art Director
Sylvio Tabet
Fred Roos
Melissa Prophet
Associate Producer
Dyson Lovell
Executive Producer
Milena Canonero
Costume Designer
Judianna Makovsky
Costume Designer
Michael Stone
Camera Operator
Michael Smuin
Michael Meacham
Arthur Mitchell
Gregory Hines
Gretchen Rennell
Barrie M. Osborne
Line Producer
Elizabeth Shelton
Assistant Costume Designer
Richard Shissler
Assistant Costume Designer