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Five Heartbeats

Five Heartbeats

4.9 21

Cast: Robert Townsend, 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 and


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.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
20th Century Fox

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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The Five Heartbeats 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When Smokey Robinson sings Really gonna miss you in the Funeral scene - it makes me cry every time. I am balling like a baby!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story of five men, bonded with one goal. The hopes of their music be heard all over. Along their way to the top, they struggle with fame and destruction of their brotherhood. I really enjoyed the music. I thought it brought me closer to the characters. I think both men and women, would enjoy this movie. In the end, their Quest for success challenges their friendships. Can they survive?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This motion pichure is about a group who started little and made it big. As they go through the life of music buisness they feel that the happiest days were back when. But they would not change anything for the excperience they had.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie is wonderful. I can watch it over and over again and not get tired of it. I am going to buy this and the Temptations movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I rate this to be enjoying.everyone should see it
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you love the good old days - Temptations, Four Tops, Martha & the Vandeles, then you'll love this movie. Hopes and Dreams realized and crushed, the pitfalls of fame, corruption, redemption - this movie has it all. Great Soundtrack - you will see this movie often and sing along to all the great songs. Each character was cast perfectly. I highly recommend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have seen this movie about 12 times over the past few years. It instantly became one of my favorites as you go through the life of a typical group in the mid 50's. But as you watch it the characters grow on you. You end up experiencing all their emotions. With an awesome soundtrack and great acting, this is a must see.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The music and the acting are both amazing. The way the friendships develop throughout and the portrayel of family are beautiful. This movie made me cry and smile when I first saw it and I just bought it and watched it, it still hits me. -and Michael Wright is unreal.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like R&B and Motown, etc, honestly this is the best musical film u could ever view. The Soundtrack is outstanding, the story line is compelling. Forget ''Pop Idols'' this is the real deal
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thaught the movie was incredible. I remember when my mother gave it to me one christmas; I think I was about 10 years old. This movie made me fall in love with not only the actor leon, but the dedication of music.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought it was a great movie it had a spectacular ending. I can watch it over and over as the years goes by.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie instantly became my favorite. Townsand really out did himself this time. Makes you wanna get up and shake yo A S S
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have seen this money many, many, many times and loved it every time. This movie is a perfect example of quality in the directing, the story, and the casting. This movie is a must see. I can't wait to get the anniversary edition in my library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This has to be one of my favorite movies of all time. This movie brings out so many different emotions in the characters which brings out emotions in you. We aren't making movies like this anymore.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first saw this movie at the drive in when it was released back in 1991 and since then it has been and remains one of my favorite movies. I love the singing, the drama, the family relationships, and the funny moments. Eddie Cain and Choir Boy were the characters I enjoyed the most. Anyone who loves RnB/Soul music would enjoy this movie. I also have the soundtrack.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Remarkable, wonderfuly entertaining movie. The opening scene was genius!!! There are so many in depth moments in this movie, that there are too many to count. Favorite scene: When they won the crowd over at The Apollo. How exciting. Truly one of my favorite movies. This movie deserved an academy anomination with Michael Wright as best Actor, and Robert Towsend as best director.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though this movie was released several years ago, I am still moved by it's amazing power of friendship, love and determination! Every actor made it's character come to life. The Five Heartbeats continue to make my heart beat twice the normal rate. I don't think this movie was given the publicity or chance it deserves but know this the audience is still watching it and sometimes the most effect is ''one on one'' at home.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie is great!Ihave owned the Five Heartbeats since 1994.. And I still enjoy watching it..Now my neighbors' kids 2,4,9 and my own 8yr old want to watch it at least 3 times a day.. It is a movie that will never get old and will be watched by many generations.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie gave me the learning experience that one can make the biggest mistake of his life and can have a second chance to make tangible use of it when the opportunity comes along.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this movie the music and the singing was truly uplifting for me. It made me cry , but also made me realize that you can have fame and fortune, but it can all be taking away in a blink of and eye. so we must be thankful for what we have.