Friday, November 06, 2015

Harlem Nights: thoughts (Part 1 of 2)

Harlem Nights: thoughts (Part 1 of 2)
Back in 1989, Eddie Murphy released a movie that he wrote/produced and directed. He was at his height of his career as Hollywood's comedic leading man. The movie co-starred two other generations of black comedians Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx.
The movie came out on the heels of Coming to America and it showed confidence that Murphy had in himself and his other actor. Sadly, Murphy became sort of disenchanted with movies and started just doing them just for the money and distanced himself from the material. I think the critical and monetary rubbing this movie received from non-black people sort of hurt him. Around the 90s he started do the really mundane movies followed by the bad movies of the 2000s.
And, here's the thing; black people really loved and supported this movie. It had to do with the fact there were SO MANY black comedians and actors in this movie that we loved and to see them all together was our form of The Avengers.
Besides Pryor and Foxx. Robin Harris Charlie Murphy Thomas Mikal Ford and many others in side roles. I have to wonder if this was Eddie's answer to Spike Lee attacking him in the press. Murphy goes out of his way to cast as many black comedians and actors in this movie. And, it is the biggest black cast in a Murphy movie. Murphy does a really good job as a director and he clearly cares about the movie. You won't see that type of commitment from Murphy today.
What is interesting is Pryor felt he didn't get along with Murphy during this movie. Pryor: I was shocked to discover that Richard wasn't too happy about Eddie's humor. Murphy has always stated that Richard was his main influence. I like Pryor's role and I think it might be Pryor's best movie role since Car Wash. It is restrained and he plays a good father figure to Quick.
From the IMDB page, ((In the autobiography, "Pryor Convictions and Other Life Sentences (1997)", Richard Pryor states that he " . . . never connected with Eddie [Murphy]. People talked about how my work had influenced Eddie, and perhaps it did. But I always thought Eddie's comedy was mean. I used to say, "Eddie, be a little nice" and that would piss him off . . . I finished [Harlem Nights (1989)] thinking that Eddie didn't like me". ))

I think Pryor and Murphy are great together. Pryor's speech about dying at an old age is a great fatherly speech. The movie partly centers around these two, but the mobster plot is the main story though.  

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