|The Five Heartbeats|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Townsend|
|Produced by||Christina Schmidlin|
Loretha C. Jones
|Written by||Robert Townsend|
Keenen Ivory Wayans
|Music by||Stanley Clarke|
|Edited by||John Carter|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
The Five Heartbeats is a 1991 musical drama film directed by Robert Townsend, who co-wrote the script with Keenen Ivory Wayans. Produced and distributed by 20th Century Fox, the film's main cast includes Townsend, Michael Wright, Leon Robinson, Harry J. Lennix, Tico Wells, Harold Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers, and Diahann Carroll.The plot of the film (which is loosely based on the lives of several artists: The Dells, The Temptations, Four Tops, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Frankie Lymon, Sam Cooke and others) follows the three decade career of the rhythm and blues vocal group The Five Heartbeats. The film depicts the rise and fall of a Motown inspired soul act through the eyes of one of the Heartbeats, Donald "Duck" Matthews.
The film was released to most North American audiences on March 29, 1991however it was not made available to audiences in other continents until 2002 when a DVD was released prior to another DVD release in 2006 for the film's 15th anniversary. The movie received mixed reviews from critics.
Donald "Duck" Matthews, Anthony "Choirboy" Stone, J.T. Matthews, Terrence "Dresser" Williams, and Eddie King Jr. perform at a Battle of the Bands contest as The Heartbeats. The group loses to Flash and the Ebony Sparks but pleases the crowd and is noticed by Jimmy Potter. Jimmy offers to manage the group, promising them $100 if they do not win the next month's Battle of the Bands contest. After the group loses, Jimmy pays them. When the owner of the club asks to hire them, they agree to let Jimmy manage them.
Bird and The Midnight Falcons witness the Heartbeats rehearsing for a competition and are concerned they could lose; frontman Victor "Bird" Thomas asks his girlfriend to invite her friends and boo The Heartbeats while cheering The Falcons. The announcer, a cousin of one of the Falcons, forces The Heartbeats to use the house piano player. Duck grows frustrated with the house player's poor playing, and shoves him off the piano stool. Eddie leads the group in a number that results in Bird's girlfriend fainting in Eddie's arms. The Heartbeats win the contest and the interest of Big Red Davis, who owns Big Red Records. Big Red offers them a deal, but Jimmy and his wife Eleanor, aware of Big Red's corruption, decline. The group instead releases their first single on Jimmy's own independent label and searches for a record company they can trust, but no one else is interested aside from a label which wants to buy Duck's songs for a group they've already signed, The Five Horsemen, prompting the Heartbeats to sign with Big Red.
The group goes on the road, but the travel is marred by racism and poor living conditions. Dresser's girlfriend visits and reveals she is pregnant, and the group is faced with their first album cover featuring white people, despite the label having earlier approved a photo of the Heartbeats as the cover.
Throughout the mid-to-late 1960s The Five Heartbeats receive numerous awards, chart several hits, and are featured on magazine covers. Eddie, however, starts abusing alcohol and cocaine, affecting his performance and prompting his girlfriend Baby Doll to break up with him. Convinced that Jimmy intends to replace him due to his deteriorating condition, he cuts a deal with Big Red to have Jimmy cut out of his contract. In retaliation, Jimmy threatens to go to the authorities with information about bootlegged LPs, cooked books, and payola that could have Big Red arrested, leading Red to have Jimmy killed in a hit disguised as an accident. Soon after Jimmy's funeral, the group learns that Eddie's deceit caused the fallout between Jimmy and Big Red. Big Red is eventually convicted of Jimmy's murder, forcing the group to sign with a new record label, and causing a guilt-ridden Eddie to leave in disgrace. By the early 1970s, Eddie has turned up at several Heartbeats concerts to try to convince his friends to let him back into the group, but his substance abuse has taken its toll on him by this time, and all the other Heartbeats can do is supply him with money out of sympathy; Duck later hears on the radio that Eddie was involved in an armed robbery and, after a shootout with the police, was in critical condition.
The Heartbeats add Flash as their lead singer. Duck comes to suspect his fiancé, Tanya Sawyer, is having an affair with Choirboy. He follows her to a hotel, only to discover that Tanya is meeting with J.T., not Choirboy. Tanya's relationship with J.T. predates her relationship with Duck, but she says she is now in love with Duck. J.T. urges Tanya to disclose the affair, but she refuses. At an awards ceremony celebrating their success, Flash announces he is going solo. Duck reveals that he knows about Tanya and J.T. and also leaves the group, resulting in the Heartbeats' disbandment.
The film then skips ahead to the early 1990s. Choirboy, true to his nickname, has returned to singing in his father's church. After converting to Christianity, Eddie has since become clean and sober. He is now married to Baby Doll, sings in Choirboy's choir, and manages a group. He asks Duck to write songs for them, to which Duck agrees. J.T. has a wife and two children, including a son named "Duck". The brothers reconcile. The only member to have maintained a singing career is Flash, who transitioned from doo-wop to pop music, and is part of the group Flash and The Five Horsemen.
At a family gathering, Eleanor Potter, coming to terms with her husband's death, forgives Eddie. The Five Heartbeats reunite in front of their families and friends, as they try to show off their old moves.
After writing (along with Keenen Ivory Wayans), producing, directing, and starring in his first film Hollywood Shuffle , Robert Townsend had attained near-cult status among independent filmmakers due to his dedication to that film—a project which caused him to max out all his credit cards and spend nearly $100,000 of his own money raised through savings and various acting jobs in order to produce the film. When writing Townsend's first studio film The Five Heartbeats, Townsend and Wayans kept comedy an important aspect of the film, but also explored complex characters in a more dramatic way.
The Five Heartbeats was originally set up as a development deal at Warner Bros. in 1988, with Keenan Ivory Wayans, his brother Damon, and others tapped to star.Warner passed on the project, and the Wayans moved on to develop and star in the Fox sketch comedy show In Living Color instead.
Townsend resurrected Heartbeats at 20th Century Fox in 1990.Years before, Townsend had had a small role as a member of the fictional Motown-style group "The Sorels" in the 1984 film Streets of Fire. His original screenplay was inspired by the lives and careers of Motown group The Temptations, and Townsend had met with former lead singers David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick with the intention of hiring them as technical advisors. Fox vetoed bringing Ruffin and Kendrick onto the production, for fear that Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr. might sue the studio. Rhythm and blues-singing group The Dells, who were renowned for their four-decade career, became the technical advisors instead.
Townsend used his film to depict a similar story to the careers of the Temptations and the Dells, following the lives of three friends who aspire to musical stardom.Given the setting of the film, he was able to tie in other elements, such as race relations, as well.
Due to the production's budgetary constraints, Townsend used little-known actors of the time, with the exceptions of Leon Robinson, Diahann Carroll and Harold Nicholas of The Nicholas Brothers.Townsend had considered Denzel Washington as Eddie Kane, Jr. and Whitney Houston as Baby Doll. The former was not cast due to budget concerns and the latter passed on the role as it was felt to be too small.
To promote the film prior to its release, Townsend, along with the other actors who portrayed the fictional musical quartet The Five Heartbeats (Leon Robinson, Michael Wright, Harry J. Lennix, and Tico Wells) performed in a concert with real-life Soul/R&B vocal group The Dells, one of many groups that inspired the film. The Dells sang and recorded the vocals as the actors lip synced.
|The Five Heartbeats |
(Music from the Motion Picture)
| Soundtrack album by |
|Released||April 2, 1991|
A soundtrack for the film was released by Virgin Records, featuring original music by various artists. Both "Nights like This" and "A Heart Is a House for Love" became top 20 hits on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart.Many of the tracks are credited to fictional characters in the film as opposed to the actual vocalists. After 7's "Nights like This" won the film an ASCAP Award.
The film grossed approximately $8.5 millionafter being released in 862 theaters throughout North America. However, despite the film's moderate success, it was not well received by a majority of critics. On Rotten Tomatoes The Five Heartbeats accumulated an average of 39%, although only 18 reviews were counted (6 of which were positive, the remaining 12 negative).
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times commented that:
...at feature length, Townsend shows a real talent, and, not surprisingly, an ability to avoid most cliches, to go for the human truth in his characters...by the end we really care about these guys...There is one obligatory scene showing racial prejudice against the group, and it seems a little tacked on, as if the only purpose of the Southern trip was to justify the scene.
Due to the nature of the film, music montages were often used to progress the plot; critics considered this a major flaw.
The numerous musical performances in the film were highly acclaimed.All Music complimented the Dells' lead singer Marvin Junior (who provided the singing voice for fictional character Eddie Kane Jr.) stating that he was "one of the most underrated voices in pop music." Tressa Thomas' performance of "We Haven't Finished Yet," in particular, was given favorable attention by critics. The film received an ASCAP award for Most Performed Songs in a Motion Picture for the song "Nights Like This."
A DVD was released for the film in 2002, a special edition was also released in 2007 for the film's 15th Anniversary which includes additional content.
Loosely based on the life and times of several R&B; artists (The Dells, The Temptations, Frankie Lymon, Sam Cooke and others) The Five Heartbeats traces the rise and fall of a popular African-American 1960s singing aggregation.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: The Five Heartbeats|
Looney Tunes is an American animated comedy series produced by Warner Bros. from 1930 to 1969 alongside its sister series, Merrie Melodies, during the golden age of American animation. They introduced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, Sylvester, Tweety, Granny, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, the Tasmanian Devil, and many other cartoon characters. After Bugs Bunny became the breakout recurring star of Merrie Melodies, and Looney Tunes went to color in the early 1940s, the two series gradually lost their distinctions and shorts were assigned to each series more randomly.
The Dells were an American R&B vocal group, vocal quintets. Formed in high school in 1953 by founding members Marvin Junior, Verne Allison, Johnny Funches, Chuck Barksdale, and Mickey and Lucius McGill, under the name the El-Rays. They released their first recording in 1954 and two years later had their first R&B hit with "Oh What a Night". After disbanding due to a near-fatal car crash in 1958, the band reformed in 1960 with Funches being replaced by Johnny Carter. This lineup remained together until Carter's death in 2009. In 2004, The Dells were inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. The group performed until illness forced longtime lead singer Marvin Junior and bass vocalist Chuck Barksdale into retirement, ending the group's 60-year run.
Keenen Ivory Desuma Wayans Sr. is an American actor, comedian, filmmaker, and a member of the Wayans family of entertainers. He first came to prominence as the host and the creator of the 1990–1994 Fox sketch comedy series In Living Color. He has produced, directed and/or written several films, starting with Hollywood Shuffle, which he cowrote, in 1987.
Damon Kyle Wayans Sr. is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and producer, and member of the Wayans family of entertainers. Wayans performed as a comedian and actor throughout the 1980s, including a year long stint on the sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live.
The Last Boy Scout is a 1991 American buddy action comedy film directed by Tony Scott, starring Bruce Willis, Damon Wayans, Chelsea Field, Noble Willingham, Taylor Negron and Danielle Harris. The film was released in the United States on December 13, 1991.
White Chicks is a 2004 American comedy film directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans. It stars Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans as two black FBI agents who go undercover using whiteface as women to solve a kidnapping plot. The film was theatrically released in the United States on June 23, 2004, and grossed $113.1 million worldwide against a budget of $37 million.
Leon Preston Robinson, usually credited as simply Leon, is an American actor and singer, who began his professional career as a film actor in the early 1980s. Robinson is best known for his roles as David Ruffin in the TV Movie The Temptations (1998), J.T. Matthews in the 1991 Robert Townsend film The Five Heartbeats, Derice Bannock in the 1993 film Cool Runnings, Shep in the 1994 basketball drama film Above the Rim, and Little Richard in the 2000 film Little Richard.
I'm Gonna Git You Sucka is a 1988 American blaxploitation parody film written, directed by, and starring Keenen Ivory Wayans in his feature film directorial debut. Featured in the film are several noteworthy African-American actors who were part of the genre of blaxploitation: Jim Brown, Bernie Casey, Antonio Fargas, and Isaac Hayes. Other actors in the film are Kadeem Hardison, Ja'net Dubois, John Witherspoon, Damon Wayans, Clarence Williams III, and Chris Rock. The film is also the film debut of comedian Robin Harris, who appears as a bartender.
Edward Lee Floyd is an American soul-R&B singer and songwriter, best known for his work on the Stax record label in the 1960s and 1970s including the No. 1 R&B hit song "Knock on Wood".
Robert Townsend is an American actor, director, comedian, and writer. Townsend is best known for directing the films Hollywood Shuffle (1987), Eddie Murphy Raw (1987), The Meteor Man (1993), The Five Heartbeats (1991) and various other films and stand-up specials. He is especially known for his eponymous self-titled character, Robert Peterson as the starring role as on The WB sitcom The Parent 'Hood (1995–1999), a series which he created and of which directed select episodes. Townsend is also known for his role as Donald "Duck" Matthews in his 1991 film The Five Heartbeats. He later wrote, directed and produced Making The Five Heartbeats (2018), a documentary film about the production process and behind the scenes insight into creating the film. Townsend is also known for his production company Townsend Entertainment which has produced films Playin' for Love, In the Hive and more. During the 1980s and early–1990s, Townsend gained national exposure through his stand-up comedy routines and appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Townsend has worked with talent including Halle Berry, Morgan Freeman, Chris Tucker, Beyoncé, Denzel Washington and many more.
John Weatherspoon, better known as John Witherspoon, was an American actor and comedian who performed in various television shows and films.
Michael Wright is an American film and television actor, who is best known for his role as Eddie King Jr. in the 1991 Robert Townsend film The Five Heartbeats, Carlyle in Streamers (1983), and Raynathan in Sugar Hill (1994). and known for his television roles such as Elias Taylor in V (1984-1985), Omar White in Oz (2001-2003), and Lazarus Prime in Black Lightning (2019).
The Treacherous Three was a pioneering hip hop group that was formed in 1978 and consisted of DJ Easy Lee, Kool Moe Dee, L.A. Sunshine, Special K and Spoonie Gee, with occasional contributions from DJ Dano B, DJ Reggie Reg and DJ Crazy Eddie. They first appeared on record in 1980 on the B side of Spoonie Gee's single Love Rap.
Harry Joseph Lennix III is an American actor. He is best known for his roles as Terrence "Dresser" Williams in the Robert Townsend film The Five Heartbeats (1991) and as Boyd Langton in the Joss Whedon television series Dollhouse. Lennix currently co-stars as Harold Cooper, Assistant Director of the FBI Counterterrorism Division, on the NBC drama The Blacklist. Lennix played General and then Secretary of Defense Calvin Swanwick in the DC Extended Universe.
Hollywood Shuffle is a 1987 American satirical comedy film about the racial stereotypes of African Americans in film and television. The film tracks the attempts of Bobby Taylor to become a successful actor and the mental and external roadblocks he encounters, represented through a series of interspersed vignettes and fantasies. Produced, directed, and co-written by Robert Townsend, the film is semi-autobiographical, reflecting Townsend's experiences as a black actor when he was told he was not "black enough" for certain roles.
Little Man is a 2006 American crime comedy film written, produced and directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, and also written and produced by Wayans Brothers Marlon and Shawn Wayans, who also both starred in the lead roles. The film co-stars Kerry Washington, John Witherspoon, Tracy Morgan, and Lochlyn Munro. A very short jewel thief hides the proceeds of his latest robbery, and then pretends to be a very large baby in order to retrieve it.
Paul Benjamin was an American actor.
"A Heart Is a House for Love" is a 1991 hit soul and R&B song composed by Tristin Sigerson, Davitt Sigerson, and Bob Thiele and recorded by The Dells. It was originally featured in the movie and soundtrack album The Five Heartbeats. The song originally only climbed to number 94 on the R&B/Hip Hop section of the Billboard American charts, but peaked at number thirteen after the release of the movie. It was The Dells' most successful hit of the 1990s. It was also their last hit single to reach the top 20 of any Billboard Chart.
Re-Kill is 2015 American horror film directed by Valeri Milev and written by Michael Hurst. It stars Scott Adkins, Bruce Payne, and Daniella Alonso as members of paramilitary group tasked with hunting down and destroying zombies after an outbreak.
Hawthorne James is an American character actor and director, known for his role as Big Red Davis in the 1991 film The Five Heartbeats.