On this day in comedy on May 26, 1970, Cotton Comes to Harlem was released by United Artist
Based on the Chester Himes novel this Ossie Davis directed hit starred Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques. It was co-written by Davis and Arnold Perl and the theme song (which was sung by Melba Moore) was also written by . . . Ossie Davis. Oh, and by the way Cotton Comes to Harlem marks the screen debut of Calvin Lockhart, Judy Pace, Cleavon Little and Redd Foxx as a junk dealer.
The story revolves around a back-to-Africa movement and $87,000 in stolen cash. Seems the crooks stuffed their loot into a bale of cotton and dumped it on the streets during their high-speed getaway. Two Harlem detectives are assigned to find the cash, but everybody else who heard about it feels it’s their obligation and duty as well and the citywide hunt is on. There’s shootouts, more car chases, sexy women, gangsters and a whole lot of jive talking. It was considered a Blaxploitation film. What would you expect?
Cotton Comes to Harlem boasts an impressive cast of 1970s character actors: Theodore Wilson, Don “Bubba” Bexley, John Anderson, Eugene Roche, J. D. Cannon, Lou Jacobi, Emily Yancy, Dick Sabol and Mabel Robinson. Produced on a budget of $1.2 million the film grossed $5.2 million making it one of the most commercially successful films starring blacks in Hollywood history and it spawned the sequel, Come Back Charleston Blue (which was not written, directed or theme song composed by Ossie Davis).
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
Check out this clip: