Cotton Comes to Harlem

Raymond St. Jacques as Coffin Ed Johnson and Godfrey Cambridge as Gravedigger Jones in Cotton Comes to Harlem (dir. Ossie Davis, 1970).

Adapted from Chester Himes' novel. Davis directs it as a weird mixture of blaxploitation slapstick and gritty police drama. Redd Foxx has a supporting role as a proto-Fred-Sanford junk dealer named Uncle Bud. He has a "moving snapshot" bit that we simply can't talk about because no commentary seems appropriate. The footage of 1970 Harlem gleams with reverence throughout, lingering on the storefronts and market stands and nightclub neon. As if nodding to a source for its own oddball aesthetic, at one point the camera swoops across the marquis of a theater showing Putney Swope.

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