The Cotton Club (1984)


The Cotton Club is a 1984 crime-drama, centered on a famed 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, Diane Lane, and Gregory Hines. The cast included Nicolas Cage, Bob Hoskins, Laurence Fishburne, Fred Gwynne, Maurice Hines, James Remar and Gwen Verdon. 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 Best Art Direction (Richard Sylbert, George Gaines) and Film Editing. 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 the first privately financed major motion picture, paid for almost entirely by brothers Fred and Ed Doumani of Las Vegas. The movie was not as successful as anticipated, making only $25,928,721 on a budget of over $50 million.


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.