Mo' Better Blues (1990)

R | 129 mins | Drama | 3 August 1990

Director:

Spike Lee

Writer:

Spike Lee

Producer:

Spike Lee

Cinematographer:

Ernest Dickerson

Editor:

Sam Pollard

Production Designer:

Wynn Thomas
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HISTORY

       The character Clarke Betancourt’s last name is spelled “Bentancourt” on a music poster seen in the film.
       According to the Dec 2010/Jan 2011 Ebony, Spike Lee wrote Mo’ Better Blues while working on his film, Do the Right Thing (1989, see entry). “Bleek” was the nickname of Spike Lee’s father, jazz bassist Bill Lee, who wrote the original music score for Mo’ Better Blues. Spike Lee originally considered using real musicians in the film, but settled mostly on actors, except for Jeff “Tain” Watts, who played drums in both the fictional “Bleek Quintet” and the real Branford Marsalis Quartet. Giancarlo Esposito, who portrayed “Left Hand Lacey,” played piano in real life. Branford Marsalis, who makes a cameo appearance in the film, was originally cast as saxophonist “Shadow Henderson,” but Lee decided he needed a professional actor for the important role. Wesley Snipes, who eventually played Shadow Henderson, was originally considered to play a loan shark enforcer. Both Denzel Washington and Snipes trained with Branford Marsalis and trumpeter Terence Blanchard, in order to properly finger their instruments during musical numbers. Spike Lee consciously omitted drugs from the film because he wanted “to break some of those stereotypical views of what jazz musicians were all about.” Principal photography began 25 Sep 1989, the 6 Dec 1989 Var noted, and ended 1 Dec 1989. Actor-comedian Robin Hughes Harris died 18 Mar 1990, nearly six months before the film opened. Lee told the 26 Sep-3 Oct 1990 Time Out of London, England, that the film’s first-draft screenplay took “fifteen days to write,” roughly eight weeks to shoot, and cost ... More Less

       The character Clarke Betancourt’s last name is spelled “Bentancourt” on a music poster seen in the film.
       According to the Dec 2010/Jan 2011 Ebony, Spike Lee wrote Mo’ Better Blues while working on his film, Do the Right Thing (1989, see entry). “Bleek” was the nickname of Spike Lee’s father, jazz bassist Bill Lee, who wrote the original music score for Mo’ Better Blues. Spike Lee originally considered using real musicians in the film, but settled mostly on actors, except for Jeff “Tain” Watts, who played drums in both the fictional “Bleek Quintet” and the real Branford Marsalis Quartet. Giancarlo Esposito, who portrayed “Left Hand Lacey,” played piano in real life. Branford Marsalis, who makes a cameo appearance in the film, was originally cast as saxophonist “Shadow Henderson,” but Lee decided he needed a professional actor for the important role. Wesley Snipes, who eventually played Shadow Henderson, was originally considered to play a loan shark enforcer. Both Denzel Washington and Snipes trained with Branford Marsalis and trumpeter Terence Blanchard, in order to properly finger their instruments during musical numbers. Spike Lee consciously omitted drugs from the film because he wanted “to break some of those stereotypical views of what jazz musicians were all about.” Principal photography began 25 Sep 1989, the 6 Dec 1989 Var noted, and ended 1 Dec 1989. Actor-comedian Robin Hughes Harris died 18 Mar 1990, nearly six months before the film opened. Lee told the 26 Sep-3 Oct 1990 Time Out of London, England, that the film’s first-draft screenplay took “fifteen days to write,” roughly eight weeks to shoot, and cost $10 million. Lee also said that Delfeayo Marsalis, Branford Marsalis’s younger brother, helped Bill Lee produce most of the film’s recordings, but his name is not listed in credits.
       Although Spike Lee formed The Mo’ Better Movie Company to make Mo’ Better Blues, the film’s original title was Love Supreme, inspired by the 1965 album, A Love Supreme, by saxophonist John Coltrane. Coltrane’s widow, Alice Coltrane, withdrew her permission for Lee to use the title because of the film’s profanity and sex, the 9 Aug 1990 DV noted. The title was changed to Variations on the Mo’ Better Blues until at least late May 1990, according to the 23 May 1990 Var, but was then shortened.
       The film premiered 23 Jul 1990 in Harlem, New York City, the 25 Jul 1990 LAT reported. It also played on closing night at Seattle, WA’s Goodwill Film Festival.
       Mo’ Better Blues debuted on 544 screens and grossed nearly $4.4 million during its first weekend, but the Oct 1990 Box reported that sales dropped off quickly, with a total of $13 million after four weeks. Several reviews, including those in the 30 Jul 1990 HR, the 1 Aug 1990 Var, and the 3 Aug 1990 editions of the LAT and NYT, praised the film, but found the story unconvincing and contrived. The film’s most prominent controversy, according to the 1 Aug 1990 DV, was the portrayal of the Jewish club owners, “Moe and Josh Flatbush,” as “money-grubbing…villainous Shylocks.” Defending the characters to the press, Lee proclaimed, “I am not anti-Semitic.”

      During the opening montage of logos celebrating Universal Pictures’ 75th anniversary in 1990, rap artist Flavor Flav spells out “Universal” and tells Spike Lee to “start the movie, G.” An opening title card identifies the time and place as “Brooklyn, New York 1969.” Roughly an hour and forty-four minutes into the film, another title card states: "One year later." End credits contain the following: “No matter what…it is with God. He is gracious and merciful. His way is through love, in which we all are. It is truly—A Love Supreme—’ --John Coltrane.” There is also a memoriam: “In loving memory of Robin Hughes Harris August 30, 1953—March 18, 1990.” End credits contain the following acknowledgments: “Special thanks: New York City Mayor’s Office for Film, Theater and Broadcasting; National Baseball Library; Steve Berkowitz – Columbia Records; Verna Hart; Michael Singletary; Sonor Drums, Korg USA; CxAuto of Middlesex, New Jersey; Sabian Cymbals; Baldwin Piano Company; Keilwerth Saxophones, Inc.; Dave Guardala Mouthpieces, Inc.; Pepsi Co.; Miller Beer; Brooklyn Beer; Evian; Willi Wear/Willi Smith; Fernando Sanchez; Basco; Nike; Sabato Russo; Jean Paul Gaultier; Angel Estrada; Gordon Henderson.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Oct 1990.
---
Daily Variety
11 Dec 1989.
---
Daily Variety
24 Jul 1990
p. 3
Daily Variety
26 Jul 1990
p. 3
Daily Variety
1 Aug 1990
p. 2
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1990
p. 10
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1990
p. 10.
Ebony
Dec 2010/Jan 2011
p. 103,104, 107
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jul 1990
p. 5, 15
Los Angeles Times
26 Feb 1990
Calendar, p. 8
Los Angeles Times
25 Jul 1990
p. 2
Los Angeles Times
3 Aug 1990
Calendar, p. 1
New York Times
24 Nov 1989
Section C, p. 10
New York Times
3 Aug 1990
p. 1
Time Out (London)
26 Sep-3 Oct 1990
pp. 18-19
Variety
6 Dec 1989
p. 20.
Variety
6 Dec 1989
p. 20
Variety
11 Apr 1990
p. 21
Variety
23 May 1990
p. 37
Variety
1 Aug 1990
p. 65
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Universal Pictures Presents
A 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks Production
a Spike Lee joint
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Prod supv
Unit mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Co-prod
Line prod
WRITER
Wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Stills photog
Cam trainee
Steadicam op
Steadicam op
Steadicam op
Addl cam op
Addl cam op
Addl 1st asst cam
Addl 1st asst cam
Addl 2d asst cam
Addl 2d asst cam
Best boy
Elec trainee
Pre-rigging gaffer
Dimmer board op
Addl elec
Key grip
Dolly grip
Best boy
Louma crane tech
Grip trainee
Addl grip
Addl grip
Lighting equip
Grip equip
Louma crane and dollies
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
Storyboard artist
Prod asst - art dept
Mo' Better Blues logo by
Mo' Better Blues logo by
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
Apprentice ed
Negative matching
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
2d dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Asst to the set dec
Prop master
1st asst prop
Prop asst
Const coord
Key set builder
Set builder
Set builder
Set builder
Set builder
Set builder
Set builder
Key const grip
Const grip
Const grip
Scenic chargeman
Cam scenic
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic shopwoman
Scenic shopman
Scenic sculptor
Apprentice scenic
Prod asst - const
Prod asst - shop
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst to the cost des
Asst to the cost des
Asst to the cost des
Ward supv
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Prod asst - ward
Prod asst - ward
MUSIC
Orig mus score
Tech mus consultant
Tech mus consultant
Tech mus consultant
Asst mus ed
Mus score rec at
Alto and soprano saxophone, The Branford Marsalis
Piano, The Branford Marsalis Quartet
Bass, The Branford Marsalis Quartet
Drums, The Branford Marsalis Quartet
Trumpet, The Branford Marsalis Quartet
Mus comp and cond by, The Natural Spiritual Orches
Arr by, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Arr by, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin/Contractor, strings, The Natural Spiritual
Violin/Concert master, The Natural Spiritual Orche
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Violin, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Viola, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Cello, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Trombone, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Trombone, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Trombone, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Trombone (bass), The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
French horn, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
French horn, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
French horn, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
French horn, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Tuba, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Piano, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Piano, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Bass, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Bass/Contractor, bass & brass, The Natural Spiritu
Drums, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Percussion, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Percussion, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Percussion, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Percussion, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Harp, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Flute/Contractor, reeds, The Natural Spiritual Orc
Flute, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Flute, alto flute, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Flute, piccolo, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Clarinet, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Clarinet, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Clarinet, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Clarinet, The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Clarinet (bass), The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Double reed (Oboe, English horn), The Natural Spir
Piano tech
Librarian
Mus copyist
Mus copyist
Asst to Bill Lee
Quotation by John Coltrane used by permission of
SOUND
Sd des
Cable man/Playback
Re-rec mixer
Dial ed
Dial ed
ADR ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley artist
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
ADR eng
Dolby consultant
Sd equip
Post-prod sd
Post-prod sd/Mixed at
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Main and end title seq des and photog by
MAKEUP
Make-up
Men's hairdresser
Women's hairdresser
Addl make-up
Addl make-up
Prosthetic make-up created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Loc mgr
Prod office coord
Asst prod office coord
40 Acres prod coord
Unit pub
Prod comptroller
Auditor
Asst auditor
Asst auditor
Extras casting
Extras casting
Asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Loc asst
Projectionist
Projectionist's asst
Transportation capt
Driver
Driver
Driver
Asst to Mr. Lee
Asst to Mr. Washington
Prod asst - office
Prod asst - 40 Acres
Prod asst - 40 Acres
Prod asst - set
Prod asst - set
Prod asst - set
Prod asst - set
Prod asst - set
Prod asst - set
Craft service
Craft service
Craft service
Prod asst - casting
Prod asst - parking
Prod asst - cont
Intern
Intern
Intern
Intern
Intern
Intern
Intern
Intern
Completion guarantee
Product placement
Stage facility
Projection equip
Projection facility
Copyright Mets footage courtesy of
Copyright Mets footage courtesy of
STAND INS
Utility stunt
Utility stunt
Utility stunt
Stunt coord
Stand-in for Mr. Washington
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
SONGS
"Say Hey," written by B. Marsalis - Steeplone Music, ASCAP, performed by The Branford Marsalis Quartet, featuring Terence Blanchard, courtesy of CBS Records
"All Blues," written and performed by Miles Davis, courtesy of Jazz Horn Music, administered by Warner-Tamerlane Pub. Corp. and CBS Records, Music Licensing Department
"Beneath The Underdog," written by B. Marsalis - Steeplone Music, ASCAP, performed by The Branford Marsalis Quartet, featuring Terence Blanchard, courtesy of CBS Records
+
SONGS
"Say Hey," written by B. Marsalis - Steeplone Music, ASCAP, performed by The Branford Marsalis Quartet, featuring Terence Blanchard, courtesy of CBS Records
"All Blues," written and performed by Miles Davis, courtesy of Jazz Horn Music, administered by Warner-Tamerlane Pub. Corp. and CBS Records, Music Licensing Department
"Beneath The Underdog," written by B. Marsalis - Steeplone Music, ASCAP, performed by The Branford Marsalis Quartet, featuring Terence Blanchard, courtesy of CBS Records
"Pop Top 40," lyrics by Spike Lee - Spikey Poo Music, Inc., ASCAP, music by Branford Marsalis - Steeplone Music, ASCAP, performed by Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes and The Branford Masalis Quartet, featuring Terence Blanchard, courtesy of CBS Records
"Tunji," composed and performed by John Coltrane, courtesy of Jowcol Music and MCA Records
"Mr. Knight, composed and performed by John Coltrane, courtesy of Jowcol Music and Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"Rescue Me," written by Gary Jackson, Carl Smith, Raynard Miner, courtesy of Chevis Publishing Corp., Inc., performed by Fontella Bass, courtesy of MCA Records
"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," written by Josef Zawinul, courtesy of Zawinul Music, performed by Cannonball Adderly, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Footprints," written by Wayne Shorter, courtesy of Miyako Music, performed by Miles Davis, courtesy of CBS Records, Music Licensing Department
"Mo' Better Blues," written by Bill Lee - New Version Music, BMI, performed by The Branford Marsalis Quartet, featuring Terence Blanchard, courtesy of CBS Records
"Sing Soweto," written by Terence Blanchard - Ninth Ward Music, Inc., ASCAP, performed by Terence Blanchard, courtesy of CBS Records
"Knocked Out The Box," written by B. Marsalis- Steeplone Music, ASCAP, performed by The Branford Marsalis Quartet, featuring Terence Blanchard, courtesy of CBS Records
"Goodbye Porkpie Hat (Theme For Lester Young)," written and performed by Charles Mingus, courtesy of Jazz Workshop, Inc. and MCA Records
"Harlem Blues," written by W. C. Handy - Handy Brothers Music, ASCAP, original adaptation by Raymond Jones - Zubaidah Music, Inc., performed by The Branford Marsalis Quartet, featuring Cynda Williams, courtesy of CBS Records
"Again Never," written by Bill Lee - New Version Music, BMI, performed by The Branford Marsalis Quartet, featuring Terence Blanchard, courtesy of CBS Records
"Lonely Woman," written by Ornette Coleman, courtesy of MJQ Music, Inc., performed by Branford Marsalis, courtesy of CBS Records, Music Licensing Department
"A Love Supreme Part 1 Acknowledgement," composed and performed by John Coltrane, courtesy of Jowcol Music and MCA Records
"Jazz Thing," lyrics by Lolis Eric Elie, music by Branford Marsalis, Christopher Martin & Keith Elam - Steeplone Music, ASCAP and Almo Music Corp., performed by Gangstarr, Gangstarr appears courtesy of Chrysalis Records.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Love Supreme
Variations on the Mo' Better Blues
Release Date:
3 August 1990
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 23 July 1990
Los Angeles opening: 3 August 1990
New York opening: week of 3 August 1990
Production Date:
25 September - 1 December 1989
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
14 August 1990
Copyright Number:
PA479404
Physical Properties:
Sound
Spectral Recording Dolby Stereo SR® in selected theatres
Color
Prints
Prints by DeLuxe®
Duration(in mins):
129
Length(in feet):
11,633
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30610
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Standing on a 1969 Brooklyn, New York, sidewalk, four African American boys call to Bleek Gilliam to join them for a baseball game. Bleek’s mother, Lillian, orders him to tell his friends he is practicing his trumpet and send them away. The boys, including a small kid nicknamed “Giant,” call Bleek a “sissy” and leave. When Bleek complains how much he hates the trumpet, his father, “Big Stop” Gilliam, promises to throw a baseball with him after practice. Twenty years later, Bleek plays trumpet in his own group, The Bleek Quintet, at the Beneath the Underdog jazz and comedy club. Bleek’s boyhood friend, Giant, who is now his manager, suggests that Bleek fire Shadow Henderson, the group’s tenor saxophonist, because he hogs the stage. When Bleek warns Shadow to stop grandstanding, tension grows between them. In the morning, Bleek awakens Indigo Downes, one of his girl friends, and hurries her out the door. Donning his New York Yankees shirt and a baseball mitt, Bleek tosses a ball with his father. Big Stop Gilliam asks which of Bleek’s girl friends he likes the best, and warns him not to bring any babies into the world until he finds out. At home, Bleek cleans his trumpet and practices until Clarke Betancourt, another girl friend, rings his door buzzer. Bleek admonishes Clarke for arriving an hour early, because she knows he practices every day until two p.m. She criticizes the way he over-regulates his time, but Bleek reminds her that music comes first in his life. Clarke wonders why, if Bleek loves music so much, he keeps the incompetent Giant as his manager. When Bleek wants to make love, Clarke insists that ... +


Standing on a 1969 Brooklyn, New York, sidewalk, four African American boys call to Bleek Gilliam to join them for a baseball game. Bleek’s mother, Lillian, orders him to tell his friends he is practicing his trumpet and send them away. The boys, including a small kid nicknamed “Giant,” call Bleek a “sissy” and leave. When Bleek complains how much he hates the trumpet, his father, “Big Stop” Gilliam, promises to throw a baseball with him after practice. Twenty years later, Bleek plays trumpet in his own group, The Bleek Quintet, at the Beneath the Underdog jazz and comedy club. Bleek’s boyhood friend, Giant, who is now his manager, suggests that Bleek fire Shadow Henderson, the group’s tenor saxophonist, because he hogs the stage. When Bleek warns Shadow to stop grandstanding, tension grows between them. In the morning, Bleek awakens Indigo Downes, one of his girl friends, and hurries her out the door. Donning his New York Yankees shirt and a baseball mitt, Bleek tosses a ball with his father. Big Stop Gilliam asks which of Bleek’s girl friends he likes the best, and warns him not to bring any babies into the world until he finds out. At home, Bleek cleans his trumpet and practices until Clarke Betancourt, another girl friend, rings his door buzzer. Bleek admonishes Clarke for arriving an hour early, because she knows he practices every day until two p.m. She criticizes the way he over-regulates his time, but Bleek reminds her that music comes first in his life. Clarke wonders why, if Bleek loves music so much, he keeps the incompetent Giant as his manager. When Bleek wants to make love, Clarke insists that what Bleek does has nothing to do with love, only sexual gratification. As they have sex, which Bleek calls “mo’ better,” Clarke bites his lower lip, and Bleek becomes angry because it might affect his trumpet playing. Meanwhile, Giant bets on baseball games with his bookie, Petey. Elsewhere, in the Beneath the Underdog office, Jewish owners Moe and Josh Flatbush discuss last night’s receipts. Moe declares that he trusts only numbers, because numbers, unlike people, do not lie. That night, as mostly white fans line up outside the club, Giant asks the bouncers, “Eggy” and “Born Knowledge,” why they keep customers on the sidewalk until the last moment. Eggy explains that having a crowd outside generates excitement and advertises success. As pianist “Left Hand” Lacey arrives late backstage with his girl friend, other band members berate him for bringing a woman into their dressing room. Lacey accuses them of criticizing her for being white. While the Bleek Quintet performs in front of a full house, Giant tells the Flatbush brothers it is time to raise the musicians’ pay, because the club is making a lot of money. The owners remind Giant that he signed a contract, and they never renegotiate. When Bleek goes home after the show, Indigo Downes waits on his doorstep. She does not like going to clubs, and would rather listen to records at home. Indigo asks what Bleek would do if he could no longer play music, and he says he would curl up and die. At a breakfast café the next morning, Petey, the bookie, reminds Giant that his bets were losers and refuses to take any new ones until he pays his considerable debts. Giant goes to Bleek’s apartment and announces he is going to demand more money from the Flatbush brothers, or else. Later, as Bleek and Clarke have sex, she asks why he refuses to let her sing with his group, because Shadow has told her she has a great voice. Bleek gets out of bed and composes a new tune, refusing to listen to Clarke’s complaints. At the club, Bleek’s band members demand a raise, and if Giant cannot deliver, they want new management. Giant gets a backstage telephone call from Petey, demanding immediate payment. During a break, when Bleek tells the Flatbush brothers he needs more money, they inform him that since Giant negotiated the quintet’s original deal, they cannot renegotiate with him. However, if their cousin took over as the group’s manager, maybe a new arrangement could be possible. On the other hand, if Bleek breaks his contract, the Flatbush brothers will sue him. Sitting at the bar, Giant watches Clarke and Indigo walk into the club only moments apart, wearing identical red gowns Bleek bought them in France. He alerts Bleek backstage. Shadow Henderson sits at Clarke’s table, asks why she keeps seeing Bleek, and tells her he wants her to sing in his band as soon as he puts it together. Seeing Clarke talking with Shadow, Bleek slips over to Indigo’s table to divert her attention, but Indigo has already seen Clarke and realizes that Bleek is having sex with her. Bleek joins Clarke as soon as Shadow leaves her table, but she is angry that Indigo is there. Backstage, Bleek relinquishes Clarke to Shadow if he wants her. In the days after, as Bleek alternately makes love to Clarke and Indigo, the two women become indistinguishable. Clarke gets angry when he accidentally calls her Indigo, and Indigo is indignant when he calls her Clarke. Each woman asks why is he still having sex with the other, but Bleek ignores their anger by playing his trumpet. Soon, both women leave him. During a bike ride in the park, Giant promises Bleek to do a better job as manager. When Giant returns to the neighborhood, Madlock and Rod, two enforcers, grab him and break some of his fingers. With his hand bandaged, Giant tells Bleek he hit a pothole on his bike. He asks everyone if he can borrow money, and all except Left Hand turn him down. He loans Giant several hundred dollars. Bleek laments that only white and Japanese people come to hear the combo play jazz, because African Americans have turned away from their own music, but Shadow blames the problem on Bleek’s refusal to “play to” a black audience. Meanwhile, Giant goes to pay Petey the money he owes, but changes his mind at the last minute. Shadow visits the record store where Clarke works, but when he tries to buy several compact discs, his credit card is declined. He confesses he really came to see her. That evening, after the show, Giant joins Bleek outside and asks to move in with him for a while. Bleek agrees to help raise money to pay Giant’s bookie, but he will have to get help for his gambling problem. Bleek also fires him. Later, Bleek telephones Indigo and leaves a message on her answering machine. She listens without picking up. Elsewhere, as Shadow makes love to Clarke, Bleek telephones and leaves a message. Clarke’s first reaction is to answer the phone, but Shadow convinces her to let Bleek talk to the machine. At the club, Giant tells Bleek that Shadow is having sex with Clarke, and when Shadow arrives and wants to talk about money, Bleek hits him. The other band members separate them. Madlock and Rod grab Giant in the bathroom and drag him into the alley. Bleek sees them from the stage, takes a break, and goes outside. The enforcers have beaten Giant, and as Bleek tries to pull them away from his friend, they beat him unconscious with his trumpet. Bleek’s dad visits him in the hospital, and recalls how proud he was when Bleek, as a boy, stood his ground in fights. While recuperating at home, Bleek listens to John Coltrane albums and remembers the days he courted Indigo. A year later, Bleek goes to the Dizzy Club where Clarke Betancourt is singing with The Shadow Henderson Quartet. Walking with a cane, Giant greets Bleek outside. He has stopped gambling and works as the club doorman. The quartet is Bleek’s old band. Shadow brings Bleek to the stage, but when he tries to play a solo, his upper lip, scarred from the beating, ruins his performance. He hurries out of the club, gives his trumpet to Giant, and walks away. Giant promises not sell the horn because Bleek will someday want it back. When Bleek goes to Indigo’s house, she berates him for not returning her telephone calls and refusing to let her visit. He recounts a story about a married couple on a falling airplane who had sex in their final moments because they loved each other. Bleek asks Indigo to marry him and save his life. She fights, then embraces him, and he carries her upstairs. Giant, Shadow, the other members of the band, and Clarke all attend Bleek and Indigo’s wedding. The couple moves in with Big Stop Gilliam and have a son named Miles. At age five, Miles begins practicing with the trumpet. When neighborhood boys come to the window wanting to play ball, Indigo sends them away because Miles has to practice. +

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

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