Release Date: 4/11/1973 Genre: Drama/Crime Rating: R Director: Raymond St. Jacques Studio(s):Brut Productions, AVCO Embassy Pictures Running Time:81 mins.
Cast: Raymond St. Jacques, Philip Michael Thomas, Freda Payne, Hope Clarke, Willie Washington, Jr., D’Urville Martin, Doug Finell, Sterling St. Jacques, C. L. Williams, Jerry Leon, Gilbert Green, Irma P. Hall.
Story: Blueboy Harris and Dave Green are struggling to make a living as waiters in the deep South during the Depression. They assess their options and decide that there’s more money to be made on the shadier side of the law, so they set up a numbers racket. It proves to have been the right decision and things are going smoothly for them until a white crime boss finds out about their success which leads to struggles with the mafia, the KKK and a corrupt police force. Source(s): tcm.com; daarac.org.
Cast:Eddie Murphy (Vernest “Quick” Brown), Richard Pryor (Sugar Ray), Redd Foxx (Bennie Wilson), Della Reese (Madame Vera Walker), Danny Aiello (Phil Cantone), Michael Lerner (Bugsy Calhoune), Berlinda Tolbert (Annie), Stan Shaw (Jack Jenkins), Jasmine Guy (Dominique La Rue), Lela Rochon (Sunshine), Thomas Mikal Ford (Tommy Smalls), Vic Polizos (Richie Vento), David Marciano (Tony), Arsenio Hall (Reggie), Charlie Murphy (Jimmy), Robin Harris (Romeo), Miguel A. Nunez, Jr. (Man with Broken Nose).
Details: Harlem Nights was written, executive produced, and directed by Eddie Murphy. Murphy co-stars with Richard Pryor as a team running a nightclub in late-1930s Harlem while contending with gangsters and corrupt police officials. The film also features Redd Foxx in his last film before his death in 1991.
Story:In 1918, small-time hustler Sugar Ray takes in seven-year-old orphan and errand boy Vernest Brown, who he nicknames “Quick” after the boy saves his life. Twenty years later, Ray and Quick, now wealthy gangsters, run a Harlem nightclub called Club Sugar Ray, with gambling and dancing in the front, and a brothel in the back that’s run by Ray’s old friend Madame Vera.
A white gangster by the name of Bugsy Calhoune, sends a corrupt detective to threaten Ray with having the Club shut down unless Colhoune gets a cut of the profits. Ray decides to shut down rather than pay, but makes sure his friends and workers are taken care of. After Ray and Quick steal bets made by Calhoune’s friends and associates on an upcoming boxing match, Calhoune sends his mistress, Dominique LaRue, to seduce and kill Quick but Quick turns the tables and kills LaRue with a gun he had hidden under his pillow.
The championship fight begins. With Calhoune’s gang distracted, Ray’s men seize the opportunity to blow up Calhoune’s “Pitty Pat Club”. Vera, seemingly angry with Ray over a business dispute, visits Calhoune and tells him where to find Ray and Quick. Calhoune and his men go to Ray’s hideout, but they unknowingly trigger hidden explosives that kill them all. Ray and Quick take one last look at Harlem, knowing they can never return and that there will never be another city like it. Despite this, the two, along with their associates leave for an unknown location as the credits roll.
Notes:Harlem Nights was Eddie Murphy’s brother Charlie first film role.The part of Dominique La Rue, played by Jasmine Guy, was originally cast with actress Michael Michele. Michele was fired during production because, according to Murphy, she “wasn’t working out”. Michele sued Murphy, saying that in reality she was fired for rejecting Murphy’s romantic advances. Murphy denied the charge, and the lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Original Release Date:4/28/1972 (New York City) Genre:Western Rating:PG Director: Sidney Poitier Studio(s):Columbia Pictures; E & R Productions Corp.; Belafonte Enterprises Running Time: 102 mins.
Cast:Sidney Poitier (Buck), Harry Belafonte (The Preacher), Ruby Dee (Ruth), Cameron Mitchell (Deshay), Clarence Muse (Cudjo), Denny Miller (Floyd), Nita Talbot (Madame Esther), John Kelly (Sheriff), James McEachin (Kingston), Lynn Hamilton (Sarah), Doug Johnson (Sam), Errol John (Joshua), Tony Brubaker (Headman), Julie Robinson (Sinsie), Enrique Lucero (Chief).
Story:After the Civil War, former slave and Union Army sergeant Buck becomes a wagon master and leads wagon trains of freed slaves from Louisiana to the unsettled territories of Kansas in search of a better life. In order to ensure safe passage and food for his company, Buck negotiates with the Native Americans in the area. He pays them, and in turn they allow him to kill limited numbers of buffalo for food, and to pass through their land. Night Riders, a group of violent white mercenary soldiers hired by Southern plantation owners raid the African American wagon trains and settlements to either scare them back to Louisiana or kill them. The raiders attempt to kill Buck by setting a trap at the farm belonging to his woman Ruth, however he escapes.
While in flight he comes across a former slave and glib con man who wears clerical garb, spouts biblical verses and calls himself Preacher. Buck forces the Reverend to switch horses with him and the disgruntled Preacher proceeds to a small boomtown.
Preacher is then accosted by the night rider’s leader, who recognizes Buck’s horse and demands to know Buck’s location. After Preacher, who introduces himself as Reverend Willis Oakes Rutherford of the High and Low Order of the Holiness Persuasion Church, convinces him that he does not know Buck’s whereabouts, the leader offers him a $500 reward for Buck, dead or alive.
Although the Preacher initially had a desire to get even with Buck, he changes his mind and decides to work with Buck after seeing the carnage the white raiders inflict on the African American travelers. Buck, Ruth and the Preacher do whatever it takes to get the wagon train west, including ambushing some of the raiders in a brothel, robbing a bank, and taking on the entire band of raiders.
Buck and Preacher are chased up a rocky hillside and a prolonged shootout ensues, during which they kill several posse members and are wounded themselves. Just as they are about to be gunned down, the watching Native American chief sends his warriors to help them. The surviving posse members are either killed or frightened off.
Later, the settlers survey the beautiful valley before them then bid farewell to Buck, Ruth and Preacher, who ride north toward their own destinies.
Notes:After the opening credits, a written statement describes the plight of freed slaves attempting to start new lives after the Civil War and dedicates the film to “those men, women and children who lie in graves as unmarked as their place in history.” Buck and the Preacher marked the first film collaboration of longtime friends Poitier and Belafonte, and several reviewers compared the film to the 1969 hit Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Other critics commented positively on Poitier’s direction and the unusual presentation of African-American settlers and their interactions with Native Americans.
Although the August 1971 Look article stated that Poitier and Belafonte hoped the film would “be successful enough to repeat,” a sequel to Buck and the Preacher was never produced. Poitier and Belafonte next worked together on the 1974 comedy Uptown Saturday Night, which was also directed by Poitier. Sources: tcm.com; burnsfilmcenter.org; Wikipedia. Photo Sources/gifs: daarac.org; photobuste.blogspot.com; cinemaparidiso.co.uk.
Release Date:10/14/1995 Genre: Drama Rating:R Director:Paul Seed Studio(s): Black Tuesday Films, HBO Pictures, Home Box Office (HBO) Running Time:105 mins.
Cast:Courtney B. Vance (Travis Holloway), Kerry Fox (Maggie Leyland), Ciarán Hinds (Edward Leyland), Leland Gantt (Barrett), Ned Beatty (Colonel Banning), Bill Nunn (Sgt. Rivers).
Story: Black American troops stationed in war-torn England prepare to fight the Germans in Europe.
One soldier, Travis befriends Maggie, an English woman whose husband, Edward, is fighting overseas. Lonely and confused by her husband’s infidelities, Maggie soon finds comfort in the arms of Travis.
When Edward suddenly returns home from battle, he discovers his wife’s secret romance which unleashes his rage and fuels his desire for punishment and retaliation. In a time of war, punishment can be swift and revenge can be taken regardless of the law. As a result, Travis finds himself on trial for his life. The only way Travis can be saved is if Maggie betrays her husband, their family and the world they have built together.
Release Date: 2/11/21; Lifetime Movie Network Genre:Drama Rating:NR Director:David DeCoteau Studio(s):Hybrid, Lifetime Movie Network
Cast: Vivica A. Foxx, Mariah Robinson, Michael Bergin and Evan Adams.
Story: After her father’s passing, Emily tries to put herself out there. A bright student, she doesn’t have the easiest time making friends. With the help of Ms. Connelly, her senior year is in full swing, but she has yet to find a guy, let alone a Valentine of her very own. As luck would have it, the new boy at school has his eye on Emily and delivers her the annual school gift of a candy cupid. Could he be the one or does he have some ulterior motives as well? Source(s): msn.com; mylifetime.com. Photo source(s): thecinemaholic.com; msn.
Release Date: 9/1/1938 Black & White Genre:Drama/Musical Directors: William Nolte, Ralph Cooper (uncredited) Studio(s): Million Dollar Productions, Million Dollar Productions, Norman Distributing Company Running Time: 72 mins.
Cast: Ralph Cooper (Duke Davis), Lena Horne (Ethel Andrews), Laurence Criner (Doc Dorando), Monte Hawley (George Marshall), Neva Peoples (Ella), Vernon McCallum (Mason), Edward Thompson (Ferdie Fenton), Johnny Taylor (Dippy, ‘Prince Alakazoo’), Ray Martin (Joe), Guernsey Morrow (Ed Lake), Charlie Hawkins (Sam, the Stage Manager).
Details: A producer’s romance with his star ends when the latter is offered a better job in New York.
Story: Duke Davis, singer Ethel Andrew’s sweetheart, manager, and producer, finds himself in a dilemma when George Marshall, a New York booking agent, offers Ethel an opportunity to leave the show “Sepia Scandals,” which is touring small towns, for New York City. Because Marshall has stipulated that Ethel must go without Duke, Duke anguishes over whether to encourage her departure, but he eventually consents to it when Marshall promises to launch her career. Ethel initially rejects Marshall’s offer when she realizes that she will be separated from Duke, but when Duke tells her that he has sold their contract for a personal profit, she is heartbroken and changes her mind. Later, Ethel’s friend Ella discovers that Duke, knowing that Ethel would never leave him willingly, intentionally angered her in order to force her to do what he thought was best for her. Ella agrees to keep his good motives a secret from Ethel.
While Ethel’s New York stint gets off to a successful start, Duke finds himself destitute and desperately seeks backing for his vaudeville show from booking agent Ed Lake. Lake, however, says that vaudeville is dead and rejects Duke’s proposal. Although Duke later convinces Mr. Mason to produce his new show, the show is a failure and Duke winds up working as a barker for Doc Dorando’s traveling medicine show. Duke injects some much-needed showmanship into Dorando’s pitch and, along with Dippy, an unemployed property man, they go on the road with their product, “Doc Dorando’s Universal Elixir.”
A year passes then one day, while listening to the radio, Duke hears that a show in which Ethel was appearing has flopped and he rushes to New York to be with her. Ella tells Ethel the truth about Duke, and when Duke arrives in New York, he meets with Ferdie Fenton, producer and club owner, who has been blamed for rushing Ethel’s career and causing her failure. Duke soon secures permission from Fenton to create a new show and he and Ethel appear on stage together, reunited at last.
Notes: The Duke Is Tops marked the film debut of Lena Horne, then just 20 years old, who had yet to develop the smooth, classy style she would distinguish herself with in her later films. A Variety reviewer called her “a rather inept actress, but something to look at and hear.” A modern source claims that Lena Horne replaced Nina Mae McKinney as the female lead in the middle of filming when McKinney became ill. Modern sources also note that the film was shot on a shoestring budget in ten days, and that Horne’s husband refused to let her attend the NAACP charity premiere of the film in Pittsburgh, PA because she was never paid for her work in the picture.
The Duke Is Tops was re-released in 1944 as The Bronze Venus, with Lena Horne’s name appearing above the title. Sources: tcm.com; IMDB; Wikipedia; Photo Sources: Daarac.org; entertainmenttime.com; moviesfortheblind.com.