The Cool World (1964)

105 mins | Drama | 1964

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HISTORY

In an interview with the 26 Aug 1962 NYT, independent filmmaker Shirley Clarke mentioned that her next project would be The Cool World, based on the 1955 novel by Warren Miller. She was currently scouting locations in the New York City village of Harlem. A news item in the 6 Mar 1963 Var reported that editing was underway, and that principal photography had been completed over a three-month period despite “difficulties” with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) over Clarke’s hiring of a non-union crew. It was also noted that the $200,000 project was the first cinematic venture for attorney-producer Frederick Wiseman. The 3 Sep 1963 NYT later estimated the budget at $250,000.
       The Cool World debuted 2 Sep 1963 at the Venice Film Festival with a running time of 125 minutes. It received a standing ovation and was nominated for the festival’s Golden Lion award, as noted in the 4 Sep 1963 NYT. Following its loss to the Italian film, Hands Over the City (1963), the 18 Sep 1963 Var reported that at least one Italian publication, Il Messaggero, decried the judges’ decision.
       Frederick Wiseman complained to the 16 Oct 1963 Var that many distributors were fearful of acquiring African-American themed films, believing they would not play in the Southern U.S. He disputed the preconception, saying that “a southern drive-in operator” was anxious to exhibit the picture. His own Wiseman Film Productions released the picture on 20 Apr 1964 at Cinema II in New ... More Less

In an interview with the 26 Aug 1962 NYT, independent filmmaker Shirley Clarke mentioned that her next project would be The Cool World, based on the 1955 novel by Warren Miller. She was currently scouting locations in the New York City village of Harlem. A news item in the 6 Mar 1963 Var reported that editing was underway, and that principal photography had been completed over a three-month period despite “difficulties” with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) over Clarke’s hiring of a non-union crew. It was also noted that the $200,000 project was the first cinematic venture for attorney-producer Frederick Wiseman. The 3 Sep 1963 NYT later estimated the budget at $250,000.
       The Cool World debuted 2 Sep 1963 at the Venice Film Festival with a running time of 125 minutes. It received a standing ovation and was nominated for the festival’s Golden Lion award, as noted in the 4 Sep 1963 NYT. Following its loss to the Italian film, Hands Over the City (1963), the 18 Sep 1963 Var reported that at least one Italian publication, Il Messaggero, decried the judges’ decision.
       Frederick Wiseman complained to the 16 Oct 1963 Var that many distributors were fearful of acquiring African-American themed films, believing they would not play in the Southern U.S. He disputed the preconception, saying that “a southern drive-in operator” was anxious to exhibit the picture. His own Wiseman Film Productions released the picture on 20 Apr 1964 at Cinema II in New York City, five days after it opened in Paris, France. Openings in the Los Angeles, CA, area followed on 26 Aug 1964 at the Los Feliz Theatre, and at the Esquire Theater in nearby Pasadena, CA. The 20 Aug 1964 Los Angeles Sentinel reported that jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie, who performed the musical score with Yusef Lateef, Aaron Bell, and Arthur Taylor, would make a speech at the Los Feliz debut, opposing California Proposition 14, a ballot measure that legalized housing discrimination. Proceeds benefitted the committee against the proposition. Although the measure won a majority of votes, it was deemed unconstitutional in 1966.
       Reviews were mixed: While the 11 Sep 1963 Var commended Clarke for her achievement, the 27 Aug 1964 LAT expressed disappointment, adding that African Americans were better qualified to make films about their people. In a 26 Apr 1964 NYT article about African American cinema, critic Bosley Crowther asserted that the picture did not “condemn the whites for the evident condition of the Negroes.” His opinion was disputed by Judith Crist in the 24 May 1964 LAT, who described the production as “a single-track indictment of the white world and a grimly bitter tale of tragedy.” The 20 May 1964 Var reported that the National Legion of Decency gave the film an “A-IV” rating, explaining that it could “not be indiscriminately recommended” due to its “stark realism in language and situations.”
       On 26 Oct 1965, DV revealed that the three “racial-themed” independent films of 1964, The Cool World, One Potato, Two Potato, and Nothing But a Man (see entries), had proven to be commercially successful.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
26 Oct 1965
p. 142.
Los Angeles Sentinel
20 Aug 1964
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
13 Aug 1963
Section E, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
27 Aug 1964
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
24 May 1964
Section C, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
6 Oct 1964
Section A, p. 6.
New York Times
26 Aug 1962
p. 46, 49.
New York Times
9 Aug 1963
p. 15.
New York Times
3 Sep 1963
p. 37.
New York Times
4 Sep 1963
p. 35.
New York Times
9 Oct 1963
p. 44.
New York Times
21 Apr 1964
p. 42.
New York Times
26 Apr 1964
Section X, p. 1, 12.
Variety
6 Mar 1963
p. 61.
Variety
11 Sep 1963
p. 6.
Variety
18 Sep 1963
p. 2.
Variety
16 Oct 1963
p. 13.
Variety
15 Apr 1964
p. 21.
Variety
20 May 1964
p. 7.
Variety
10 Jun 1964
p. 50.
Variety
13 Apr 1966
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Interior lighting
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
MUSIC
Mus comp & arr
Gospel mus
Calliope played by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Cool World by Warren Miller (Boston, 1959) and the play The Cool World by Robert Rossen (New York, 22 Feb 1960).
SONGS
Jazz music performed by Dizzy Gillespie, Yusef Lateef, Mal Waldron, Aaron Bell and Arthur Taylor
rock and roll mus performed by Herb Lowell, Charles Jackson, Julian Euell and Hal Singer.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1964
Premiere Information:
Venice Film Festival debut: 2 September 1963
Paris opening: 15 April 1964
New York opening: 20 April 1964
Los Angeles opening: 26 August 1964
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
105
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Duke, a black adolescent and member of the Royal Pythons, lives in Harlem with his mother and grandmother. Following the departure of their friend Littleman's father, the Pythons appropriate the apartment, installing Luanne as resident prostitute. Despite the fact that Luanne is Python president Blood's girl friend, she and Duke fall in love. Discovering that Blood is a heroin addict, Duke assumes leadership of the gang. During an idyll at Coney Island, however, Luanne vanishes, and Duke returns to Harlem. During a halfhearted battle with the Wolves, a rival gang, Duke stabs an antagonist. Seeking refuge, he rushes to Python headquarters, where he discovers the corpse of a friend. At home he is apprehended by ... +


Duke, a black adolescent and member of the Royal Pythons, lives in Harlem with his mother and grandmother. Following the departure of their friend Littleman's father, the Pythons appropriate the apartment, installing Luanne as resident prostitute. Despite the fact that Luanne is Python president Blood's girl friend, she and Duke fall in love. Discovering that Blood is a heroin addict, Duke assumes leadership of the gang. During an idyll at Coney Island, however, Luanne vanishes, and Duke returns to Harlem. During a halfhearted battle with the Wolves, a rival gang, Duke stabs an antagonist. Seeking refuge, he rushes to Python headquarters, where he discovers the corpse of a friend. At home he is apprehended by police. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.