Trouble Man (1972)

R | 99-100 mins | Drama | November 1972

Director:

Ivan Dixon

Producer:

Joel Freeman

Cinematographer:

Michel Hugo

Editor:

Michael Kahn

Production Designer:

Albert Brenner

Production Company:

JDF/B Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film’s climactic battle sequence, which ends with “Mr. T” killing “Pete Cockrell,” is reminiscent of the sequence from the 1948 Columbia Pictures release The Lady from Shanghai (see above) in which two characters shoot each other in a room filled with mirrors. Trouble Man was shot on location in Los Angeles, and included sites such as the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City and the historic United Artists Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Howie Steindler, who appears in the film as himself, owned the famed Main Street Gym in downtown L.A., which also was used as a location site. Steindler was the trainer of real-life featherweight champion Danny “Little Red” Lopez, who plays himself in the picture. Modern sources include Harry Caesar in the cast. According to news items, the picture's world premiere in New York was a benefit for the Negro Ensemble Company, a theatrical company co-founded by actor Robert Hooks.
       Several reviewers compared the film unfavorably to the 1971 blaxploitation detective film Shaft (see above), which was also co-written by Joel Freeman and produced by John D. F. Black. Trouble Man was the only production made by Freeman and Black’s production company, JDF/B Productions. Trouble Man marked the feature film directorial debut of television actor and director Ivan Dixon and contained the only film music score composed by singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye (1939--1984). Music from the score, including the title song, was used extensively in the 2005 Paramount Pictures release Four Brothers , directed by John ... More Less

The film’s climactic battle sequence, which ends with “Mr. T” killing “Pete Cockrell,” is reminiscent of the sequence from the 1948 Columbia Pictures release The Lady from Shanghai (see above) in which two characters shoot each other in a room filled with mirrors. Trouble Man was shot on location in Los Angeles, and included sites such as the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City and the historic United Artists Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Howie Steindler, who appears in the film as himself, owned the famed Main Street Gym in downtown L.A., which also was used as a location site. Steindler was the trainer of real-life featherweight champion Danny “Little Red” Lopez, who plays himself in the picture. Modern sources include Harry Caesar in the cast. According to news items, the picture's world premiere in New York was a benefit for the Negro Ensemble Company, a theatrical company co-founded by actor Robert Hooks.
       Several reviewers compared the film unfavorably to the 1971 blaxploitation detective film Shaft (see above), which was also co-written by Joel Freeman and produced by John D. F. Black. Trouble Man was the only production made by Freeman and Black’s production company, JDF/B Productions. Trouble Man marked the feature film directorial debut of television actor and director Ivan Dixon and contained the only film music score composed by singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye (1939--1984). Music from the score, including the title song, was used extensively in the 2005 Paramount Pictures release Four Brothers , directed by John Singleton. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
27 Nov 1972
p. 4544.
Daily Variety
3 May 1972.
---
Daily Variety
31 Oct 1972.
---
Filmfacts
1972
pp. 471-73.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 1972
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 1972
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Oct 1972
p. 4, 8.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
23 Nov 1972.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
1 Dec 1972.
---
New York
13 Nov 1972.
---
New York Times
7 Apr 1972.
---
New York Times
2 Nov 1972
p. 48.
New York Times
12 Nov 1972
Section II, p. 1.
Newsweek
20 Nov 1972.
---
Variety
8 Nov 1972
p. 28.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Best boy
Elec
Key grip
Best boy
Dolly grip
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Lead man
Swing man
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Women's ward
MUSIC
Tech asst to comp
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Casting
Extras casting
Asst to Mr. Black
Scr supv
Transportation capt
Cinemobile tech
Craft service
SOURCES
SONGS
"Trouble Man," music and lyrics by Marvin Gaye.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
November 1972
Premiere Information:
World premiere in New York: 31 October 1972
New York opening: 1 November 1972
Los Angeles opening: 29 November 1972
Production Date:
mid April--early June 1972
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
1 November 1972
Copyright Number:
LP42092
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
DeLuxe
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
99-100
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
23343
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Los Angeles, an African-American private detective known as Mr. T, short for “Mr. Trouble,” goes to his “office,” a billiards parlor run by his friend Jimmy. The cocky, well-dressed T, known throughout the neighborhood for being able to “fix” any problem, angers a young pool shark by easily besting him. Watching the game are two racketeers, African-American Chalky Price and his white partner, Pete Cockrell, who ride along with T as he investigates a crooked building management firm. During the journey, Chalky and Pete explain that their illegal craps and card games are being raided, always by silent bandits wearing masks and gloves so that it is impossible to discern their race. The two racketeers want to hire T to stop the robbers, although they balk when he demands a fee of $10,000. T orders them to call him when they decide, and after they leave, they go to the building where their next game will be held that night. Chalky and Pete, along with their henchmen, Billy Chi and Frank, have invented the robbery story and kidnapped Abbey Walsh, a collector for rival gangster Mr. Big, and intend to frame T for Abbey’s murder. They hope that after framing T, Big will retaliate and either get killed or arrested, thus clearing the way for them to take over his territory. After finalizing the arrangements, they call T to give him their location, at which T plans to observe the game. During the craps game, several masked, gloved men enter and rob the players, who quickly scatter. As the robbers leave, Pete puts a hood over Abbey’s head ... +


In Los Angeles, an African-American private detective known as Mr. T, short for “Mr. Trouble,” goes to his “office,” a billiards parlor run by his friend Jimmy. The cocky, well-dressed T, known throughout the neighborhood for being able to “fix” any problem, angers a young pool shark by easily besting him. Watching the game are two racketeers, African-American Chalky Price and his white partner, Pete Cockrell, who ride along with T as he investigates a crooked building management firm. During the journey, Chalky and Pete explain that their illegal craps and card games are being raided, always by silent bandits wearing masks and gloves so that it is impossible to discern their race. The two racketeers want to hire T to stop the robbers, although they balk when he demands a fee of $10,000. T orders them to call him when they decide, and after they leave, they go to the building where their next game will be held that night. Chalky and Pete, along with their henchmen, Billy Chi and Frank, have invented the robbery story and kidnapped Abbey Walsh, a collector for rival gangster Mr. Big, and intend to frame T for Abbey’s murder. They hope that after framing T, Big will retaliate and either get killed or arrested, thus clearing the way for them to take over his territory. After finalizing the arrangements, they call T to give him their location, at which T plans to observe the game. During the craps game, several masked, gloved men enter and rob the players, who quickly scatter. As the robbers leave, Pete puts a hood over Abbey’s head and shoves him into the hallway, where he is shot in the back by Chalky. Because one of the robbers was wearing a distinctive, blue sports coat exactly the same as Abbey’s, T assumes that Abbey was one of the culprits. Curious about why Abbey would be involved, T goes to the Main Street Gym, where he asks boxer Bobby Golden, a friend of Abbey, if the dead man would participate in the stick-ups. Bobby asserts that Abbey would do so only if he had been ordered to by Big. Meanwhile, Chi has dumped Abbey’s body and called the police to inform them that T murdered Abbey, and where the corpse is located. Police detectives Paco Valdez and Tim Millers come to the gym to arrest T, who protests his innocence to Capt. Joe Marx. Although there is no physical evidence linking T to the murder, Marx, who hates the belligerent T, is still suspicious. Upon his release, T is picked up by Leroy and Pindar, two of Big’s hoodlums. T knocks out the men and gets the drop on Preston, Big’s bodyguard, then confronts the black gangster, who controls much of the crime in the community. T convinces Big that he is being framed for Abbey’s murder, then persuades him that because a gang war will bring unwanted police attention, he must negotiate with Chalky and Pete. T goes to the commercial laundry facility where Chalky and Pete have their office, and after they assure him that they are not behind the frame-up, they agree to meet Big at Jimmy’s. The next night, T goes to Jimmy’s and tells his friend to close early and then leave, before the meeting occurs. When Preston and Big arrive, Big reveals that he found two players at the fateful game who confirm T’s version of the events. As they talk, four hoodlums dressed as policemen arrive, take away Preston and Big’s other bodyguard, then shoot Big with T’s handgun to make it look as if he is responsible for another murder. After the men leave, T retrieves a hidden gun and arranges the scene to look as if he had been forced to kill Big in self-defense. He then calls Marx, who disparages T’s narrative of the shooting and arrests him, even though he knows that the evidence will not support a murder charge. T is released soon after being booked, and when he returns to the pool hall, he tells Jimmy to leave town for his own protection. T also calls his girl friend, singer Cleo, to tell her to pack. Meanwhile, Chalky complains about T’s release, although Pete asserts that they can now kill T with impunity, as the police will assume that Big’s vengeful men did it. Chalky is still nervous, however, prompting Chi to go after T. Chi and two of his men grab and beat Jimmy before he can reach Cleo’s, but a roving patrol car prevents them from killing him. T stops by the police records and evidence room, where the affable Sgt. Koeppler is distracted by a phone call from Cleo, allowing T to slip into the locked evidence room and retrieve both of his handguns. After Chi reports to Chalky and Pete that he cannot find T, Chalky declares that he is leaving town, but Pete, who lives in Century City, a white, upper-class area of Los Angeles, insists that T will not be able to get to him there. Chalky goes to his own office to empty his safe but is surprised by T, who demands his fee. Chalky pays, then pleads that framing T was Pete’s idea, but T knows that he is lying. When Chi bursts in, T pushes Chalky toward him, and the hot-headed hoodlum shoots Chalky before being killed by T. T then drives to Century City, where Pete’s apartment building is being protected by his many thugs. T outwits and outfights them to reach to the penthouse, and after leveling his gun at Frank, makes the hoodlum take him to Pete. Pete is locked in his mirror-lined bedroom and accidentally shoots Frankie to death before T knocks over the lights and, gun blazing, kills the racketeer. His mission accomplished, T changes into a clean suit then heads back to the evidence room. There, he sweet-talks a black policewoman into distracting Koeppler long enough for him to return the handguns to the evidence locker. With the handguns seemingly having been in police custody the entire night, T knows that he cannot be connected to the killings of Chalky and Pete. T then leaves with the young policewoman, who flirtatiously admits that she knows who he is. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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