We were quoting lines from this movie on Skype and in the chat box just days ago. Robert Townsend was a guest on the Tom Joyner Morning Show this morning (Thursday) and the discussion was about the 2011, twenty year reunion of the movie, "THE FIVE HEARTBEATS." They held a lighthearted conversation about the movie, it's character's, memorable moments, and timeless lines. Robert revealed there is a possibility that The Five Heartbeats COULD become a play. Wouldn't that be something to see! We'll have to come back and review the play, but, for now, let's look at the movie:
The Five Heartbeats is a 1991 musical drama film directed by Robert Townsend, who co-wrote the script with Keenan Ivory Wayans. 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, David Ruffin and others) follows the three decade career of the fictional band The Five Heartbeats. The film depicts the rise and fall of a Motown inspired soul act through the eyes of the film's main protagonist Donald "Duck" Matthews (portrayed by Townsend), who serves as a narrator throughout the film, although a majority of the cinema is presented in a consecutive time line as opposed to traditional flash backs.
The film includes a significant amount of original music conceived by various artists for the film's soundtrack, including singles such as "A Heart Is a House for Love," "We Haven't Finished Yet," and "Nothing But Love."
The film was released to most North American
audiences March 29, 1991 however it was not made available to audiences in other continents interviews from critics.
The Five Heartbeats cast of characters
- Lamont Johnson as Bobby Cassanova: Bobby and Eddie are co-lead singers of the group. Bobby is only seen in the movie's opening scenes when he and Eddie are caught cheating at a high stakes poker game. Bobby gets shot in the leg and is replaced by Eddie as the lead singer.
- Robert Townsend as Donald "Duck" Matthews: Duck hails from a poor family. He is The Five Heartbeats' co-founder and brother of fellow Heartbeat's member J.T Matthews, and originally was only the composer and musician for the group. He is a permanent vocalist after Bobby disappears. He serves as the movie's narrator, with the film beginning as he reminisces about the group's career.
- Michael Wright as Eddie King, Jr. : (Because of a thick southern drawl, this is often heard as Eddie Kane) Eddie comes from an area that features predominantly poor individuals, his own father believing his attempts to start a career in the music industry will be unsuccessful. Similar to David Ruffin, Eddie is the lead vocalist of the band and falls into a life of drugs
that eventually leads to his expulsion from the group as well as emotional trauma. Eddie is one of the founding members of The Heartbeats and serves as the crowd pleaser whose voice leads to success in many of their performances.
- Leon Robinson as J.T. Matthews: J.T. is the older brother of Duck.
- Tico Wells as Anthony "Choir Boy" Stone: Stone is given the nick name "Choir Boy" (much to his offense) for his past as a choir boy in his father's church. Similar to Eddie, Stone's father does not support his decision to become a music artist fearing rock and jazz are music of the devil.
- John Canada Terrell as Flash: Michael "Flash" Turner is the lead singer of Flash and the Ebony Sparks, the Heartbeats' only competition. When Eddie goes into a downward spiral, Flash is brought in as the new lead singer.
- Harry J. Lennix as Terrence "Dresser" Williams: The original choreographer of The Heartbeats, Dresser serves as the groups bass singer and one of the founding members. He is replaced by Ernest "Sarge" Johnson as the choreographer after Sarge out-dances Dresser.
- Hawthorne James as Big Red Davis: Corrupt owner of the first record label The Five Heartbeats are signed to.
- Chuck Patterson as Jimmy Potter: The Heartbeat's manager, Jimmy is responsible for giving the group the opportunity to perform at more publicized events and receive training from Ernest "Sarge" Johnson.
- Diahann Carroll as Eleanor Potter: Jimmy Potter's wife, Eleanor along with her husband are the original supporters of The Five Heartbeats.
- Roy Fegan as Bird: Bird is the lead singer of Bird and The Midnight Falcons. Early in the film the character attempts to defeat The Five Heartbeats in a vocal contest. After Big Red orchestrates the murder of Jimmy Potter, Bird joins members of the Heartbeats in testifying against Red and helps to convict him of the murder.
- Harold Nicholas of Harold and Fayard Nicholas as Ernest "Sarge" Johnson: Johnson is The Five Heartbeat's choreographer. He choreographs the dance moves for the group. Sarge is last seen in the hospital on his birthday.
- Troy Beyer as Baby Doll: Eddie's girlfriend, who leaves him after he abuses drugs and alcohol. She later marries Eddie and they are shown singing together in a choir.
- Theresa Randle as Brenda: - Dresser's girlfriend, who later becomes his wife.
- Bird and The Midnight Falcons portrayed by actors Roy Fegan, Gregory Alexander, Roger Rose, Jimmy Woodard: The group The Five Heartbeats compete against in their second onscreen performance. The Midnight Falcons attempt to cheat by ordering their
girlfriends to deliberately cheer against The Heartbeats.
- Flash and the Ebony Sparks portrayed by John Canada Terrell, Ron Jackson, Recoe Walker and Wayne "Crescendo" Ward: The Ebony Sparks defeat The Five Heartbeats in singing competitions—many of which are rigged—prior to their mainstream popularity. Flash later becomes the lead singer for the Five Heartbeats.
After writing (along with Keenan Ivory Wayans), producing, directing, and starring in his previous film Hollywood Shuffle, Robert Townsend had gained a near cult status with independent filmmakers due to his dedication to the past film 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 feature length film, The Five Heartbeats, Townsend and Wayans kept comedy an important aspect of the film, but ventured to explore complex characters in a more dramatic way.
After extensive research with R&B singing group The Dells, who are renowned for their four-decade career, Townsend used his film to depict a similar story following three friend's who aspire to become musicians. Due to the setting of the film, he was able to tie in other elements, such as race relations, as well. Because of 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.
A soundtrack for the film was released by Virgin Records featuring original music from both the film and those recorded by various artists (most predominately the Dells) for the soundtrack. Both Nights Like This and A Heart Is a House for Love went on to become top 20 hits on the Hot Black Singles section of the US Billboard music charts. The entire album is described in an inuniverse tense, crediting the songs to fictional characters in the film as opposed to the actual vocalists. (Note: While original music by The Four Tops, The Dells and The Delfonics was played during the 60's era of the movie, none of the songs appear on the soundtrack.)
- A Heart Is a House for Love - The Dells
- We Haven't Finished Yet - Patti LaBelle, Tressa Thomas, Billy Valentine
- Nights Like This - After 7
- Bring Back the Days - U.S. Male
- Baby Stop Running Around - Bird and the Midnight Falcons
- In the Middle - Flash and the Five Heartbeats
- Nothing But Love - The Dells with Billy Valentine
- Are You Ready for Me - Flash and the Ebony Sparks
- Stay in My Corner - The Dells
- I Feel Like Going On - Andre Crouch (Eddie, Baby Doll and the L.A. Mass Choir
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..."
The numerous musical performances were highly acclaimed. All music complimented the Dells lead singer Marvin Junior (the vocalist who provided the singing voice for fictional character Eddie King, Jr.) stating him to be "one of the most underrated voices in pop music." Tressa Thomas's performance of "We Haven't Finished Yet" in particular was described by critics as favorable.The film received an ASCAP
award for Most Performed Songs in a Motion Picture for the song "Nights Like This."
Want Sountrack lyrics? Go to: http://www.soundtrackslyrics.com/def/Five-Heartbeats.html
1. Who was/were your favorite character(s)?2. What was your favorite scene?3. What were your favorite lines?4. What songs did you like best?5. Would you go see this movie in the form of a play?
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