Cotton Comes to Harlem [1970]

Genre: Action, Comedy
Based on Chester Himes's novel, this film marked actor-writer Ossie Davis's directing debut. Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques play Himes's volatile police detectives, Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, who are on the trail of white men who pulled an armed stickup at a Back to Africa rally in Harlem. The money belongs to the poor people who paid for a chance to return to the motherland--but was it really a stickup? Or is the flashy preacher at the center of the Back to Africa movement (Calvin Lockhart) involved in a scam to rip off his own people? The plot drags; the best part of the film are the performances (as well as spotting cameos by such actors as the then-unknown Cleavon Little) and the on-location shooting in parts of New York where a camera had rarely ventured previously. Redd Foxx shows up in a small part as a ragpicker that led to his role in TV's Sanford and Son. --Marshall Fine

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