Harlem Nights

Release Date:  11/17/1989
Genre:   Drama/Comedy
Rating:  R
Director:  Eddie Murphy
Studio(s):  Eddie Murphy Productions, Paramount Pictures
Running Time:  116 mins.

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.

*Spoilers Ahead*

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. 

Source(s):  IMDB; Wikipedia.  Photos/Gifs Source:  daarac.org.


The Affair

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.

Sources:  tcm.com; Wikipedia.  Photo Sources:  moviepostershop.com; memorabletv.com; truetvmovies.net; videodetective.com.

Sister, Sister

Release Date:  6/7/1982
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  NR
Director:  John Berry
Studio(s):  National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 20th Century Fox Television,
Running Time:  98 mins.

Cast:  Diahann Carroll (Carolyne Lovejoy), Rosalind Cash (Freida Lovejoy-Burton), Irene Cara (Sisina ‘Sissy’ Lovejoy), Paul Winfield (Eddie Craven), Dick Anthony Williams (Reverend Richard Henderson), Robert Hooks (Harry Burton), Kristoff St. John (Danny Burton).

Details:  Television movie written by Maya Angelou, tells the story of three sisters who come together to decide the fate of their family home after the death of their revered father.

Story:  The story starts out in a small town in North Carolina with Carolyne Lovejoy, a schoolteacher, singing in the choir at the local church. It is later revealed that she is having an intense affair with the pastor, Reverend Henderson who is also the state senator-elect. Carolyne later comes home to find her younger sister (who she raised after the death of their parents), 20-year-old Sissy, with her boyfriend, Johnny. It is expressed that Sissy is an aspiring ice skater, but Carolyne wants her to follow in her footsteps and become a schoolteacher.

Their battle continues throughout the movie. Later their estranged sister, Frieda, who has been living 13 years in the slums of Detroit, shows up with her 12-year-old son, Danny. They decide to stay for a while because Danny has had some trouble with the law and Frieda wants to give him a fresh start. While trying to co-exist in the same house, the sisters’ lives turn upside down. Frieda suggests they sell their childhood home.

Frieda is the troubled black sheep, while Carolyne is knocked off her pedestal when her minister lover succumbs to Frieda’s seduction. Sissy learns that their father never wanted another daughter, but had hoped she would be a boy ad that their mother had tried to abort her. After a physical altercation with Frieda and Carolyne, Frieda and Sissy decided to leave. The movie ends with Sissy leaving for New York and Frieda deciding to stay and work things out with Carolyne.

Notes:  Although the movie was filmed in February 1979, NBC chose to withhold it until June 1982, when it aired during primetime. According to JET, Fred Silverman, who was the head executive of the network at the time, decided not to air the film because it did not match his preferred formats of “action-packed or comedy shows,” and that the film’s focus on the intense personal dramas of middle-class blacks would not appeal to white sensibilities of the late 1970s.

The film won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special. Cara won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special for her role.  Sources:  IMDB; Wikipedia.  Photo Sources:  hornsection.blogspot.com; pintrest.com; daarac.org.



Release Date:  12/25/1981
Genre:  Drama/Historical
Rating:  PG
Director:  Milos Forman
Studio(s):  Dino De Laurentiis Company, Sunley Productions, Paramount Pictures
Running Time:  155 mins.

Cast:  Howard E. Rollins, Jr. (Coalhouse Walker, Jr.), James Cagney (Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo), Moses Gunn (Booker T. Washington), Debbie Allen (Sarah), Brad Dourif (Younger Brother), James Olson (Father), Mary Steenburgen (Mother), Elizabeth McGovern (Evelyn Nesbit), Kenneth McMillan (Fire Chief Willie Conklin).

Details:  Based on the 1975 historical novel Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow about a proud black musician who rebels against racism in turn-of-the-century New York.  The movie includes fictionalized references to actual people and events of the time and features the final film appearance of James Cagney as well as early appearances by Samuel L. Jackson, Debbie Allen, Jeff Daniels, Fran Drescher, Ethan Phillips, and John Ratzenberger.  The film was nominated for eight Oscars, including Harold E. Rolllins, Jr. for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Story:  Pianist Coalhouse Walker, Jr. plays ragtime tunes to a silent newsreel montage depicting turn-of-the-20th-century celebrities including Harry Houdini, Theodore Roosevelt, and architect Stanford White.  Millionaire industrialist Harry Kendall Thaw makes a scene when White reveals a nude statue atop Madison Square Garden which is modeled after former chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit who is now Thaw’s wife. Convinced White has corrupted Evelyn, Thaw publicly shoots him dead.

An upper-class family resides in New Rochelle, New York, where Father owns a factory and his wife’s Younger Brother makes fireworks. An African American baby is abandoned in their garden, and upon learning the police intend to charge the child’s mother, Sarah, with child abandonment and attempted murder, Mother takes Sarah and her child in, despite Father’s objections. Coalhouse arrives in search of Sarah, realizes he is the baby’s father, announces his intention to marry Sarah.

Later Coalhouse is targeted by bigoted volunteer firemen led by Willie Conklin, who refuse to allow Coalhouse’s Model T- Ford to pass. Coalhouse finds a policeman and returns to find his car soiled with horse manure.

The policeman insists that Colehouse clean the manure off his car and move on, giving him the choice to do so or be arrested. Colehouse refuses, and is hauled in to the local precinct. After Father arranges for Coalhouse’s release, they discover his car has been further vandalized. Coalhouse pursues legal action, but can find no lawyer willing to represent him. Father and Younger Brother argue over Coalhouse’s legal recourse. At a presidential rally, Sarah attempts to tell President Roosevelt about Coalhouse’s case but is beaten by guards and dies of her injuries.

After Sarah’s funeral, Coalhouse and his supporters kill several firemen. He threatens to attack other firehouses, demanding his car be restored and Conklin be turned over to him. Father is disgusted at the violence but Younger Brother joins Coalhouse’s gang with his knowledge of explosives. Coalhouse’s gang hold the Pierpont Morgan Library’s collection hostage. Police Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo sends for Walker’s child as a bargaining chip but Mother refuses to give him up.

Booker T. Washington fails to persuade Walker to surrender, as does Father. Conklin is captured by police and forced to apologize to Coalhouse. Police Commissioner Waldo is disgusted by Conklin’s bigotry but cannot submit to terrorist demands and has him arrested. Coalhouse agrees to surrender if Waldo permits his supporters to depart in his restored car and Waldo agrees after Father volunteers to stay as a hostage. Coalhouse’s supporters escape and he drives Father out of the library. Ready to blow himself up, Coalhouse instead surrenders but is shot dead on Waldo’s orders.

Sources:  Rogerebert.com; Wikipedia; IMDB.  Photo Source:  IMDB.