A Rage in Harlem (1991)

R | 108 mins | Comedy-drama | 3 May 1991

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HISTORY

The 17 Feb 1990 Screen International reported that principal photography would begin in Apr 1990. It also inaccurately described the plot as centering on a counterfeiting operation. Director Bill Duke told the 14 Apr 1990 Long Beach Press-Telegram that screen tests for the role of “Imabelle” were currently underway. Rehearsals were scheduled to begin the following week, and principal photography would begin the week after. Cast members reportedly agreed to work for “a little bit less” than their standard salaries because they wanted the opportunity to work together. A Rage in Harlem marked Duke’s feature-film directorial debut. On 30 Apr 1990, HR announced that photography was underway in Cincinnati, OH, and would continue for eight weeks. A record deal was being negotiated for the music soundtrack album.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Duke chose to film in the Cincinnati neighborhood known as “over-the-Rhine,” because its architecture closely resembled that of New York City’s Harlem district in the 1950s. The actual Harlem had since lost many of its older structures to urban renewal. After auditioning numerous actresses for the role of “Imabelle,” Duke chose Robin Givens, who received considerable media attention during her recent divorce from prizefighter Mike Tyson. The director hoped that the film would enlighten audiences to the diversity of African American life, which was often portrayed in popular culture as being dominated by crime.
       The 15 May 1990 HR announced that rap star Tone Loc and actress Toukie Smith had joined the cast, although neither are credited onscreen. However, ...

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The 17 Feb 1990 Screen International reported that principal photography would begin in Apr 1990. It also inaccurately described the plot as centering on a counterfeiting operation. Director Bill Duke told the 14 Apr 1990 Long Beach Press-Telegram that screen tests for the role of “Imabelle” were currently underway. Rehearsals were scheduled to begin the following week, and principal photography would begin the week after. Cast members reportedly agreed to work for “a little bit less” than their standard salaries because they wanted the opportunity to work together. A Rage in Harlem marked Duke’s feature-film directorial debut. On 30 Apr 1990, HR announced that photography was underway in Cincinnati, OH, and would continue for eight weeks. A record deal was being negotiated for the music soundtrack album.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Duke chose to film in the Cincinnati neighborhood known as “over-the-Rhine,” because its architecture closely resembled that of New York City’s Harlem district in the 1950s. The actual Harlem had since lost many of its older structures to urban renewal. After auditioning numerous actresses for the role of “Imabelle,” Duke chose Robin Givens, who received considerable media attention during her recent divorce from prizefighter Mike Tyson. The director hoped that the film would enlighten audiences to the diversity of African American life, which was often portrayed in popular culture as being dominated by crime.
       The 15 May 1990 HR announced that rap star Tone Loc and actress Toukie Smith had joined the cast, although neither are credited onscreen. However, Smith is included in acknowledgements following end credits. A Mar 1991 release was planned, as stated in the 26 Dec 1990 DV.
       The 8 Apr 1991 Var reported a dispute between distributor Miramax Film Corporation, and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which would only allow the film’s trailer to be shown during “R” or “NC-17” programs. The trailer contained a sequence in which actor Gregory Hines pulls a gun from a hollowed-out Bible and places it to the head of a potential robber. MPAA defended its decision, citing a guideline that placed restrictions on trailers depicting “a gun being pointed at someone’s head if the potential victim is in the same frame.” Miramax argued that the scene was supposed to be comical rather than violent. At the time of the article, no decision had been made whether Miramax would appeal the ruling.”
       A Rage in Harlem opened 3 May 1991 to lukewarm reviews. The 3 May 1991 HR described the film as “exhilarating,” but also recommended further editing, while the 30 Apr DV complained of excessive portrayals of violence.
       End credits include the following statement: “The producers wish to thank the following organizations and individuals: Carroll Cartwright and Topper Lilien; A. Scott Frank; Bill Whelan; Melanie Cook; Judy Hofflund; Bill Smart and The Emery Center Corporation; Michael Harker, Sonja Nelson, Rupert Nadeau and JDH Sound; Emily Schweber; Deborah Wolsh; Alexander Gelderman; John Scaife; Marie Vine; Hilliard Elkins; Toukie Smith; Cellular One; CSX Transportation Corporation; Museum Center at Union Terminal; Railway Exposition Company, Covington, KY; Pepsi; Anheuser Busch; Ohio State Film Commission; The City of Covington, KY; East Fork Lake State Park; Paul’s Hatworks.”

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
30 Apr 1990
---
Daily Variety
26 Dec 1990
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 1990
p. 3, 22
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 1990
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 1990
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 1991
p. 9, 14
Long Beach Press-Telegram
14 Apr 1990
---
Los Angeles Times
3 May 1991
p. 1
New York Times
3 May 1991
p. 14
Screen International
17 Feb 1990
---
Variety
8 Apr 1991
---
Variety
6 May 1991
p. 334
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Palace presentation
In association with Miramax Film Corporation
Of a Palace Woolley/Boyle production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
Dir, 2d unit
1st asst dir, 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Co-prod
Line prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst 2d cam
Video assist
Loader
Loader
Gaffer
Best boy elec
Pre rig gaffer
Elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Dir of photog, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
Still photog
Lenses & Arriflex cam by
Lighting & grip equip supplied by
Title photog by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
Art dept asst
Art dept asst
Art dept asst
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
Assoc ed
2d asst ed
2d asst ed
Apprentice ed
Editorial intern
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Draftsman
Prop master
Set dec
Leadman
On set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Swing set dresser
Swing set dresser
Swing set dresser
Set artist
Scenic asst
Scenic asst
Const foreman
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Asst to supv/costumer
Key costumer
Key costumer
Set costumer
Set costumer
Extras ward coord
Extras ward coord
Set extras dresser
Set extras dresser
Tailor
Tailor
Ward asst
Shopper
MUSIC
Supv mus ed
Mus ed
Mus ed
Triad Music, Inc.
Electronic mus sd des
Orig score performed by
Orch leader
Solo saxophone
Mus supv/exec prod
Soundtrack album prod
Asst to Seymour Stein
SOUND
Sd rec
Boom op
Sd/cable person
Sd ed
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Foley ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
ADR/Foley mixer
ADR/Foley rec
Post prod sd transfers
Post prod sd transfers
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Bill Murphy
Spec eff asst/driver
Main title des by
Main title illustrations by
Opticals
DANCE
Choreog
Asst choreog/Chorus dancer
Choreog asst
Striptease choreog
MAKEUP
Hair des
Hair consultant
Addl hairdresser
Addl hairdresser
Makeup des
Spec makeup eff
Addl makeup
Addl makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Asst unit mgr
Scr supv
Projectionist
Projectionist
Supv prod coord
Prod coord
Office coord
Asst to the producers
Asst to the producers
Asst to Bill Dale
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Loc asst
Loc asst
Loc asst
Loc asst
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Picture car coord
Robert Davis
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
U.K. prod supv for Palace
Exec in charge of prod for Miramax Films
Prod attorney
Prod attorney
Auditor for Palace Productions
Prod auditor
Asst auditor
Asst auditor
Unit pub
Craft services
Extras casting/Principal casting asst
Extras casting asst
Extras casting asst
Researcher
Researcher
Key set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Prod intern
Prod intern
Prod intern
Prod intern
Prod intern
Prod intern
Completion bond
Animal wrangler
Cam cars
Addl classic automobiles supplied by
Addl classic automobiles supplied by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based upon the novel A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes (New York, 1965).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
SONGS
“A Rage In Harlem,” performed by Little Jimmy Scott & The Expressions, music by Elmer Bernstein, lyrics by Jonathan Paley, Jeff Vincent, Jimmy Scott, and Andy Paley, published by Eibern Music, Inc./WB Music Corp. and Bien Disque Music Co., Inc./Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. and Derallo Music Publishing Co., Inc. and Polyphany Music/J’s Way Publishing, Inc./Satellite Six Songs, courtesy of Sire Records; “Adios,” performed by Little Jimmy Scott & The Expressions, written by Andy Paley, published by WB Music Corp. and Satellite Six Songs, courtesy of Sire Records; “Ain’t Got No Home,” written and performed by Clarence “Frogman” Henry, published by Arc Music Corporation, courtesy of MCA Records; “Bo Diddley,” performed by Bo Diddley, written by Ellis McDaniel, published by Arc Music Corporation, courtesy of MCA Records; “Bo Weevil,” performed by Fats Domino, written by Dave Bartholomew and Antoine Domino, used by permission of EMI Unart Catalog Inc., courtesy of EMI Records USA; “Brown Eyed Handsome Man," written and performed by Chuck Berry, published by Arc Music Corporation, courtesy of MCA Records; “Church Bells May Ring,” performed by The Willows, written by M. Craft and The Willows, courtesy of Melba Records; “Dust My Broom,” written and performed by Elmore James, published by Arc Music Corporation, courtesy of MCA Records; “Elevator Operator,” performed by Little Richard, written by Andy Paley and Richard Penniman, published by WB Music Corp. and Satellite Six Songs, courtesy of Sire Records; “Heaven Is In Your Heart,” performed by Darryl Pandy, written by Jeff Vincent, published by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. and Derallo Music Publishing Co. Inc. and Polyphony Music, courtesy of Sire Records; “Honest I Do,” performed by Jimmy Reed, written by Jimmy Reed and Ewart F. Abner, Jr., published by Conrad Music, a division of Arc Music Corp., courtesy of Vee Jay Records; “Hymn For The Dead,” performed by Francine Taylor, written by Francine Taylor and Dane Davis, courtesy of Danetracks; “I Asked For Water,” performed by Howlin’ Wolf, written by C. Burnett, published by Arc Music Corporation, courtesy of MCA Records; “I Put A Spell On You,” performed by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, written by Jay Hawkins, used by permission of EMI Unart Catalog Inc., courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing; “I’m In Love Again,” performed by Fats Domino, written by Dave Bartholomew and Antoine Domino, used by permission of EMI Unart Catalog Inc., courtesy of EMI Records USA, a division of Capitol Records, Inc.; “Juke,” performed by Little Walter, written by Walter Jacobs, published by Arc Music Corporation, courtesy of MCA Records; “Just Because,” written and performed by Lloyd Price, published by Duchess Music Corporation, courtesy of MCA Music Publishing, a division of MCA, Inc., record courtesy of MCA Records; “Let The Good Times Roll,” performed by Shirley & Lee, written by Leonard Lee, published by Atlantic Music Corp. (USA) and Atlantic/EMI Unart Catalog Inc. (outside the USA), courtesy of EMI Records USA, a division of Capitol Records, Inc.; “Luckiest Girl In The World,” performed by Betty Boo, written by Alison Clarkson, Andy Paley, Dean Ross, and Paul Myers, published by Rhythm King Music/WB Music Corp. and Satellite Six Songs, courtesy of Rhythm King Records/Sire Records; “May The Lord Bless You Real Good,” performed by The Charles Fold Singers, written by Rev. James Cleveland, courtesy of Sargos Music; “Pledging My Love,” performed by Johnnie Ace, written by D. Robey and F. Washington, published by Duchess Music Corporation, courtesy of MCA Music Publishing, a division of MCA, Inc., record courtesy of MCA Records; “Please Please Please,” performed by James Brown, written by James Brown and Johnny Terry, published by WB Music Corp., courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, a division of PolyGram Group Distribution, Inc.; “We Belong Together," performed by Robert & Johnnie, written by J. Mitchell, Hy Weiss, and Robert Carr, published by Maureen Music, Inc., courtesy of Old Town Record Corp.; “Sugar Daddy Blues,” performed by LaVern Baker, written by Andy Paley, Jeff Lass, LaVern Baker and Barry Marshall, published by WB Music Corp. and Satellite Six Songs/Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. and Derallo Music Publishing Co., Inc., courtesy of Sire Records; “Why, Oh Why?” performed by Betty Boo, written by Alison Clarkson, Dean Ross, and Paul Myers, published by Rhythm King Music, courtesy of Rhythm King Records/Sire Records; “Yellow Coat,” performed by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, written by Jay Hawkins and Irv Nahan, published by Lark Music Inc., courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing.
SONGWRITERS/COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
3 May 1991
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 3 May 1991; New York opening: week of 3 May 1991
Production Date:
late Apr--late Jun/early Jul 1990
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Duration(in mins):
108
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31128
SYNOPSIS

In 1956 Natchez, Mississippi, a gang comprised of Slim, Imabelle, Jodie, and Hank rob a gold mine and attempt to sell the ore to Lester Bunton, a purveyor of stolen goods. Lester offers a fraction of the $200,000 asking price, and reminds the criminals that he is one of only two people in the United States who buys stolen ore, the other lives in New York City. Gunfire is exchanged, and Imabelle escapes with the truckload of ore. In the Harlem district of New York City, Jackson, a deeply religious mortuary employee, says his morning prayers. At the Royale Theater, crime boss “Easy Money” advises his associate, “Goldy,” to avoid paying gambling customer Julius Dixon. Goldy is defiant, insisting that all of his winning customers get paid. Imabelle arrives in the city by train, carrying the stolen goods in a trunk. Using her last four dollars, she stores the trunk at a hotel, and attends the Undertakers’ Ball at the Royale Theater, intent on selling the ore to Easy Money. Jackson also attends the ball, although he shuns drinking, dancing, and the company of women, whom he labels “heathen Phillistines.” He accidentally spills water on Imabelle and further annoys her with his social ineptitude. She meets with Easy Money, but they are interrupted by police detectives "Grave Digger" Jones and "Coffin Ed" Johnson, who question the crime boss on the murder of Julius Dixon. Imabelle returns to the ballroom and coerces the awkward Jackson to allow her to stay in his apartment. She attempts to seduce Jackson, but he refuses to share his bed with her and ...

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In 1956 Natchez, Mississippi, a gang comprised of Slim, Imabelle, Jodie, and Hank rob a gold mine and attempt to sell the ore to Lester Bunton, a purveyor of stolen goods. Lester offers a fraction of the $200,000 asking price, and reminds the criminals that he is one of only two people in the United States who buys stolen ore, the other lives in New York City. Gunfire is exchanged, and Imabelle escapes with the truckload of ore. In the Harlem district of New York City, Jackson, a deeply religious mortuary employee, says his morning prayers. At the Royale Theater, crime boss “Easy Money” advises his associate, “Goldy,” to avoid paying gambling customer Julius Dixon. Goldy is defiant, insisting that all of his winning customers get paid. Imabelle arrives in the city by train, carrying the stolen goods in a trunk. Using her last four dollars, she stores the trunk at a hotel, and attends the Undertakers’ Ball at the Royale Theater, intent on selling the ore to Easy Money. Jackson also attends the ball, although he shuns drinking, dancing, and the company of women, whom he labels “heathen Phillistines.” He accidentally spills water on Imabelle and further annoys her with his social ineptitude. She meets with Easy Money, but they are interrupted by police detectives "Grave Digger" Jones and "Coffin Ed" Johnson, who question the crime boss on the murder of Julius Dixon. Imabelle returns to the ballroom and coerces the awkward Jackson to allow her to stay in his apartment. She attempts to seduce Jackson, but he refuses to share his bed with her and he spends the night in a chair. In the morning, police question Goldy about the shooting of a white officer in connection with the stolen ore. Although he is ignorant of the crime, Goldy is intrigued by the prospect of securing the stolen ore for himself. Meanwhile, Imabelle succeeds in seducing Jackson, after which he proposes marriage, which she politely declines. That night, Imabelle is awakened by a nightmare in which Slim, Jodie, and Hank break into the apartment and kill Jackson. He gives her a crucifix lavalier that belonged to his late mother, promising it will end her nightmares. However, Imabelle is visited the next morning by her former colleagues, and eases Slim’s jealousy with the excuse that she is merely exploiting her host. Slim demands Imabelle’s cooperation in a plot to swindle Jackson, and she complies, fearing for the young man’s life. She convinces Jackson to deliver his life’s savings to Jodie and Hank, with the promise that they can magically transform it into a larger amount. Slim bursts into the room disguised as a detective and confiscates the money, then solicits a $200 bribe in lieu of Jackson’s arrest. In desperation, Jackson takes the money from the mortuary safe, and his employer, Mr. Clay, issues a complaint against him to police. Grave Digger and Coffin Ed search Jackson’s apartment, unaware that he his hiding under the bed. His landlady, Mrs. Canfield, describes Slim and his accomplices, and also mentions Imabelle’s trunk, which the detectives believe may contain the gold ore. When Islamic preacher Claude X sees Imabelle in the company of “three black devils,” he advises Jackson to seek assistance from his estranged stepbrother, Goldy, who understands the criminal mind. Jackson reunites with Goldy, whose real name is “Sherman,” and berates him for abandoning their family, avoiding their mother’s funeral, and turning to a life of crime. However, he needs help recovering Imabelle, and offers Goldy the ore as payment. At the brothel of cross-dressing pimp “Big Kathy,” a prostitute named Teena informs Goldy that Jodie is selling shares in a gold mine, and has an accomplice named Gus Parsons, who trolls Braddock’s Tavern in search of prospects. Goldy and Big Kathy send Jackson into Braddock’s, with detailed instructions on extracting information from Gus Parsons. However, Jackson gets drunk and soon finds himself in a secluded alley, where Gus Parsons attempts to rob him. Goldy and Kathy pose as detectives and order Parsons to lead them to his associates. They enter Slim’s apartment, unaware that two policemen are following them. When the officers burst through the door, Goldy douses one of them with acid and escapes, followed by Jackson and Big Kathy. Shots are fired, one of which strikes Gus Parsons in the chest. Grave Digger and Coffin Ed join the pursuit, forcing Jackson, Goldy, and Kathy up to the roof, where they evade police by jumping to neighboring buildings. Afterward, the three borrow a hearse from the mortuary to transport the gold. Meanwhile, Slim and his cohorts escape to Gus Parsons’ apartment, where Slim kills his comrade, believing the wounded man to be a hindrance. When Imabelle is alone in the apartment, Goldy and Kathy abscond with the gold, while she and Jackson have a joyful reunion. Within moments, however, Slim returns for Imabelle and forces her into his car. In a nearby alley, the stepbrothers reconcile their differences, although Goldy maintains that Imabelle is merely exploiting Jackson. Meanwhile, Slim discovers Big Kathy alone in the hearse and places a razor to his throat. Imabelle breaks free and warns Jackson and Goldy, but they are too late to save their friend. Believing Imabelle is complicit, Goldy holds her at gunpoint, demanding that she lead them to Slim. She agrees to comply, providing she receives half the gold ore, since she masterminded the robbery. Goldy telephones Grave Digger, requesting his help in exacting revenge on Slim. At the Royale Theater, Easy Money purchases the ore from Slim, then makes a sexually suggestive comment about Imabelle. Insane with jealousy, Slim shouts “pop goes the weasel,” signaling his henchmen to kill Easy Money. A gunfight ensues, leaving only Slim and Easy Money alive. Slim holds Easy Money’s cherished Pomeranian dog at gunpoint, demanding both the money and the gold ore. Easy Money complies, but as Slim places the dog on the floor, Goldy throws the door open, inadvertently crushing the animal, before he shoots Easy Money to death. Using Imabelle as a human shield, Slim drags her downstairs to the ballroom. Jackson challenges Slim to hand-to-hand combat, but Slim refuses to surrender his razor and attempts to cut Jackson’s throat. Imabelle comes to Jackson’s defense, and shoots Slim through the head. As police gather outside, Jackson gives Imabelle the briefcase full of money and instructs her to hide in the hearse. Grave Digger and Coffin confiscate the gold ore, then arrest Jackson for robbing the mortuary. In the morning, however, mortuary proprietor Mr. Clay posts Jackson’s bail, and thanks the young man for providing him with several new “customers” the previous night, two of which had $8,000 in their possession at the time of death. Mr. Clay gives Jackson an envelope from Imabelle, containing the crucifix lavalier and the key to a train station locker. Jackson and Goldy find $100,000 in the locker, and a note from Imabelle, stating that Jackson is too good for her. Realizing that her train to Mississippi is about to depart, Jackson climbs aboard and returns the crucifix. Imabelle reponds to Jackson’s declarations of love by reminding him that they are barely acquainted. He believes the long train ride will rectify the problem.

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

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