Five Heartbeats

Five Heartbeats

4.9 21

Cast: Michael Wright, Leon, Harry J. Lennix


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Loosely based on the life and times of several R&B artists (The Dells, The Temptations, Frankie Lymon, Sam Cooke and others) The Five Heartbeats traces the rise and fall of a popular African-American 1950s singing aggregation. The story is told from the point of view of one of the "Heartbeats," played by Robert Townsend (who also co-produced, directed andSee more details below


Loosely based on the life and times of several R&B artists (The Dells, The Temptations, Frankie Lymon, Sam Cooke and others) The Five Heartbeats traces the rise and fall of a popular African-American 1950s singing aggregation. The story is told from the point of view of one of the "Heartbeats," played by Robert Townsend (who also co-produced, directed and co-wrote the script with Keenan Ivory Waynans). The film is an amalgam of anecdotes drawn from real-life experiences: the long struggle upward, the first rush of success, the dishonest record-company executives, the hard-nosed but nurturing managers, the sex, the drugs, the isolation and the precipitous downward slide. The film begins and ends in the 1990s, as the middle-aged "Duck" (Townsend) ruminates on the past and makes the best of the present.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
When filming the big-screen adaptation of Dreamgirls (2006), Bill Condon undoubtedly used the Broadway staging of that musical as his template. But he could very well have been using The Five Heartbeats. In fact, Robert Townsend's 1991 labor-of-love, considerably less heralded than Condon's film, is a truer and more fulfilling "making of a Motown supergroup" movie. The films have so many surface similarities -- the tentative rise in the ranks, the windy road to success, the inevitable disappointments of fame -- that one must go deeper to determine why The Five Heartbeats works better as a narrative. Townsend himself may be the difference, but it's not because he, an African-American, has a more legitimate perspective on the material; Condon has repeatedly proven himself a consummately sensitive interpreter. Rather, it speaks more to the fact that this was the prestige project beating deep in Townsend's chest while he was toiling away on comedies -- comedies that may not have been as important to him as this project clearly was. (It's worth noting that he may have experienced an exhaustion akin to that felt by his well-traveled Heartbeats, as his next two theatrical directing projects were the dud comedies The Meteor Man and B.A.P.S., after which he made the permanent switch to directing TV). In his short-lived apex as a director, Townsend gathers together earnest, energetic performances from a spectrum of impressive actors, who add true dimension to the simpler parts of the script. Then again, The Five Heartbeats is a reminder that simple isn't necessarily bad. Townsend has made sort of the definitive version of the tumultuous band movie, one that shows his love for music and the depth of his soul. He doesn't always surprise with his choices, but he's helped establish some genre standards worth imitating.
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert
Townsend shows a real talent, and, not surprisingly, an ability to avoid most cliches, to go for the human truth in his characters.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
20th Century Fox
Region Code:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Bonus footage viewing option - see the filming of exclusive deleted scenes as you watch the movie; Robert Townsend profile; Original "making-of" featurette; 5 all-new featurettes: "Meet the Five Heartbeats," "The Director's Process," "In the Studio," "The Look," & "The Nomination"; Theatrical trailer

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert Townsend Duck
Michael Wright Eddie
Leon J.T.
Harry J. Lennix Dresser
Tico Wells Choirboy
Diahann Carroll Eleanor Potter
Chuck Patterson Jimmy Potter
Nicholas Brothers Ernest 'Sarge' Johnson
Hawthorne James Big Red
Harold Nicholas Sarge
Gregory "Popeye" Alexander Midnight Falcon
James Anderson Big Red's Guy
Troy Beyer Baby Doll
Brian Bradley Five Horseman
Jaki Brown-Karman Actor
Mike Conn Five Horseman
Barry Diamond Five Horseman
Carl Edwards Five Horseman
Joey Gaynor Five Horseman
Randy Harris Big Red's Guy
Devin C. Huff Matthew's Kid
Lakisha Luke Matthew's Kid
Bob Mardis Midnight Falcon
Veronica Redd Mrs. Matthews
John Canada Terrell Michael "Flash" Turner
Tommy Townsend Matthew's Kid
Recoe Walker Ebony Sparks
Virginia Watson Actor
Jeannel Phillips White Matthew's Kid
Kamar Phillips White Matthew's Kid
Jimmy Woodard Midnight Falcon
Tressa Thomas Duck's Baby Sister
Roy Fegan Bird
Carla Brothers Tanya Sawyer
Deborah Lacey Rose
Theresa Randle Brenda
John Witherspoon Wild Rudy
Anne-Marie Johnson Sydney Todd
Lisa Mende Marcia Sayles
Bobby McGee Leon
Don Barnes Lester
O.L. Duke Monroe
Lamont Johnson Bobby Cassanova
Arnold Johnson Mr. Matthews
David McKnight Pastor Stone
Phyllis Applegate Myra Stone
Paul Benjamin Mr. King
Marilyn Coleman Mrs. King
Norma Donaldson Mrs. Sawyer
Harris Peet Phil Shumway
Kasi Lemmons Cookie
Monique Mannen Sandra Tillman
Suzanne Suter Crystal
Gigi Bolden Crystal
Kathleen Mitchell Crystal
Ron Jaxson Ebony Sparks
Wayne "Crescendo" Ward Ebony Sparks
Roger Rose The Midnight Falcon
Fred Asparagus Big Red's Guy
Al Simon Big Red's Guy
Shannon Chambers Matthew's Kid
Brandon Wright Matthew's Kid
Christopher Bradley Theatre Security Man
Aaron J. Galang Theatre Security Man
Harry Stanback Speakeasy Guy
Tiffanique Webb Speakeasy Girl
Timmie Rogers Buddy Lewis
Craig Eisner Jimmy's Doorman
Tommy Redmond Hicks Pastor Blake
David Drummond Policeman
Griff Ruggles Policeman
Joel Weiss St. George Hotel Doorman
Regina McLeod Jackie
Shanel Cason J.T.'s Little Girl
Jimmy Jackson Little Duck
Alexis Johnson Little Girl
John Pittman Hitman
Vincent J. Isaac Hitman
Ron Smith Poker Player
Frank Fontaine Poker Player
Donnie Simpson Himself
Eugene Robert Glazer David Green

Technical Credits
Robert Townsend Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Kokayi Ampah Producer
David Brownlow Sound/Sound Designer
John Carter Editor
Ruth E. Carter Costumes/Costume Designer
Stanley Clarke Score Composer
Don Diers Art Director
William Dill Cinematographer
Bill Dill Cinematographer
Nancy Israel Co-producer
Loretha C. Jones Producer
Michael Peters Choreography
Samara Schaffer Set Decoration/Design
Christina Schmidlin Producer
Wynn P. Thomas Production Designer
Keenen Ivory Wayans Screenwriter
Christopher Young Score Composer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Five Heartbeats
1. Main Titles
2. Where Are They Now?
3. Eddie Ain't Here
4. Nothing but Love
5. Jimmy Potter
6. Pay Attention and You Might Learn Something
7. Bird and the Midnight Falcons
8. Bringing Down the House
9. Big Red Davis
10. We Haven't Finished Yet
11. Making a Deal
12. On the Radio, On the Road
13. Cross Over the Album
14. Show Goes On
15. Fame, Fortune and Family
16. Eddie's Other Love
17. Tanya
18. Doing Business With Big Red
19. Jimmy's Recurring Nightmare
20. The Funeral
21. Getting to the Truth
22. The New Heartbeat
23. Eddie's Plea
24. The Autograph Says It All
25. The Gold Record Ceremony
26. A Letter From Choirboy
27. Together Again
28. End Titles

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