The Cotton Club (1984) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Cotton Club (1984)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Cotton Club Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

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 The Godfather'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 The Godfather's creative team. Neither a Heaven's Gate-sized failure nor a wallet-saving hit like Coppola's Apocalypse Now, 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.more
Rating: R (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre: Musical & Performing Arts, Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola, William Kennedy, Mario Puzo
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 19, 2000
Nelson Entertainment

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Richard Gere
as Dixie Dwyer
Gregory Hines
as Sandman Williams
Diane Lane
as Vera Cicero
Lonette McKee
as Lila Rose Oliver
James Remar
as Dutch Schultz
Nicolas Cage
as Vincent Dwyer
Allen Garfield
as Abbadabba Berman
Bob Hoskins
as Owney Madden
Fred Gwynne
as Frenchy Demange
Gwen Verdon
as Tish Dwyer
Lisa Jane Persky
as Frances Flegenheimer
Maurice Hines
as Clay Williams
Julian Beck
as Sol Weinstein
Novella Nelson
as Mme. St. Clair
Laurence Fishburne
as Bumpy Rhodes
Tom Waits
as Irving Stark
Ron Karabatsos
as Mike Best
Glen Witherow
as Ed Popke
Jennifer Grey
as Patsy Dwyer
Wynonna Smith
as Winnie Williams
Thelma Carpenter
as Norma Williams
Larry Marshall
as Cab Calloway
Joe Dallesandro
as Charles `Lucky' Luci...
Diane Venora
as Gloria Swanson
Tucker Smallwood
as Kid Griffin
Glenn Withrow
as Ed Popke
Ed Rowan
as Messiah
Rony Clanton
as Caspar Holstein
Damien Leake
as Bub Jewett
Bill Cobbs
as Bib Joe Ison
Joe Lynn
as Marcial Flores
Sandra Beall
as Myrtle Fay
Zane Mark
as Duke Ellington
Tom Signorelli
as Butch Murdock
Steve Vignari
as Trigger Mike Coppola
Gregory Rozakis
as Charlie Chaplin
Marc Coppola
as Ted Husing
Bruce Howard
as Bumpy Hood
Robert Earl Jones
as Stage-Door Joe
Vincent Jerosa
as James Cagney
Rosalind Harris
as Fanny Brice
Bruce MacVittie
as Vince Hood
Brian Tarantina
as Vince Hood
George Cantero
as Vince Hood
James Russo
as Vince Hood
Bruce Hubbard
as Bumpy Hood
Ed Zang
as Clerk
Christopher Lewis
as Child in Street
Nicholas J. Giangiul...
as Screen Test Thug
John P. Ryan
as Joe Flynn
Bruce Howard
as Bumpy Hood
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News & Interviews for The Cotton Club

Critic Reviews for The Cotton Club

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (5)

Given its garish production history, one rather expected The Cotton Club to sing with hot-jazz desperation. Instead, we get the mediocre craftsmanship of a pit band in Vegas.

Full Review… | March 13, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

It was the most assured film Coppola had made in a decade, full of casual wit and visual invention.

Full Review… | December 11, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The narrative is a mess despite the simplistic twinning of tales.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Whatever it took to do it, Coppola has extracted a very special film out of the checkered history of this project.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

July 7, 2005
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

Sharply uneven, Coppola's period musical about he famous Harlem club is lavishly produced but shallow.

Full Review… | August 25, 2012

Audience Reviews for The Cotton Club


Good motion picture, but The Cotton Club presents some cliches of gangsters movies. Whatever, Coppola made a remarkable film.

Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

While not the Godfather (and what is really...besides Godfather 2, but I digress)
The Cotton Club is a great entertaining little movie. All controversy about it's making aside Coppola and Evans managed to craft a thoroughly entertaining film with several great scenes and mostly solid performances (I'm looking at you Nic Cage and James Remar). I can say however, that this is hands down, the single best tap dancing gangster film ever made.

Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer


Period gangster drama set around a nightclub in the 20s that's a little lacking in substance.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

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