6.7/10
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9 user 14 critic

The Cool World (1963)

Filmmaker Shirley Clarke ("The Connection") directs this powerful, stark semi-documentary look at the horrors of Harlem ghetto slum life filled with drugs, violence, human misery, and a ... See full summary »

Director:

Shirley Clarke
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1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Rony Clanton Rony Clanton ... Duke (as Hampton Clanton)
Carl Lee Carl Lee ... Priest
Yolanda Rodríguez Yolanda Rodríguez ... Luanne
Clarence Williams III ... Blood (as Clarence Williams)
Gary Bolling Gary Bolling ... Littleman
Bostic Felton Bostic Felton ... Rod
Gloria Foster ... Mrs. Custis
John Marriott ... Hurst
Georgia Burke Georgia Burke ... Grandma
Marilyn Cox Marilyn Cox ... Miss Dewpoint
Jerome Raphael Jerome Raphael ... Mr. Shapiro
Mel Stewart ... Con-man
Joe Dennis Joe Dennis ... Douglas Thurston (as Joseph Dennis)
Ronald Perry Ronald Perry ... Savage
Bruce Edwards Bruce Edwards ... Warrior
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Storyline

Filmmaker Shirley Clarke ("The Connection") directs this powerful, stark semi-documentary look at the horrors of Harlem ghetto slum life filled with drugs, violence, human misery, and a sense of despair due to the racial prejudices of American society. There is no patronizing of the black race in this cinematic cry for justice. A fifteen-year-old boy called Duke is ambitious to buy a "piece" (a gun) from an adult racketeer named Priest, to become president of the gang to which he belongs, and to return them to active "bopping" (gang fighting) which has declined in Harlem. It is a clearly patent allegory of an attempt by Duke to attain manhood and identity in the only way accessible to him - the antisocial one. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

These are the ones who play it cool, and find out about life and love before they're in high school ! This is the picture that explodes like a time bomb In the face of a city! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Zipporah Films

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 November 1964 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Cool World See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1994. See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

The Cool World is a shocking portrait of street life in 1960's America.
16 October 2003 | by ericcodySee all my reviews

"The Cool World", a 1963 independent film directed by Shirley Clarke is probably the most shocking, interesting, and realistic film I have ever seen. The films follows the character of Duke played by Rony Clanton. This film shows how it really was to be an African American teen growing up in urban America (Harlem, N.Y.) in the 1960's. The gun serves as a character in the film itself, for it demonstrates manhood for the character of Duke.

By no means is this film a glorification of street life that is so common today in American pop culture. The viewer will see in this film how ugly crime is especially these characters who are driven to commit crimes because of the desperate, depressed situations of the ghetto. The character of Duke searches throughout this movie for a gun to own as almost a way to arm himself against the failures that surround him daily such as rat infested tenements, garbage filled streets, drugs, pimps, prostitutes, gangs, and over zealous cops.

If John Cassevetes is considered the new phase of film making that occurred in the late 1950's with his superb film "Shadows" then Shirley Clarke is his female counterpart. Shirley Clarke masterfully merges documentary footage and Jazz music to the actual film that creates somewhat of a frightening, haunting, realistic portrait of urban America that I feel has not been seen very much in cinema since "The Cool World". It is interesting to note that actors Clarence Williams III, Antonio Fargas, Gloria Foster, and Peter De Anda who appeared in this film went on to make great strides of achievement in both film and television in the 1970's.

"The Cool World" is shown in many film festivals across the country. Unfortunately it is not on video, but someday I hope it will be for the world to see. I rate this movie **** excellent.


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