Uptown Saturday Night


1h 44m 1974

Brief Synopsis

Two ordinary joes entangle themselves in an underworld mess while out to find a stolen lottery ticket worth fifty grand.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Crime
Release Date
1974

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

Comedy duo Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby star as two ordinary joes, who entangle themselves in an underworld mess, while out to find a stolen lottery ticket worth fifty grand.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Crime
Release Date
1974

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Richard Pryor (1940-2005)


The scathing, brilliantly insightful African-American comic who proved himself on many occasions to be a highly competent screen actor, died of a heart attack on November 10 at his Encino, California home. He was 65. He had been reclusive for years after he publicly announced he was suffering from multiple sclerosis in 1992.

He was born Richard Thomas Pryor III on December 1, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois. By all accounts, his childhood was a difficult one. His mother was a prostitute and his grandmother ran a brothel. His father was rarely around and when he was, he would physically abuse him. From a young age, Pryor knew that humor was his weapon of choice to cut through all the swath he came across and would confront in his life.

After high school, he enlisted in the Army for a two-year stint (1958-60). When he was discharged (honorably!) he concentrated on stand-up comedy and worked in a series of nightclubs before relocating to New York City in 1963. In 1964, he made his television debut when he was given a slot on the variety program On Broadway Tonight. His routine, though hardly the groundbreaking material we would witness in later years, was very well received, and in the late '60s Pryor found more television work: Toast of the Town, The Wild Wild West, The Mod Squad ; and was cast in a two movies: The Busy Body (1967) with Sid Caesar; and Wild in the Streets (1968) a cartoonish political fantasy about the internment of all American citizens over 30.

Pryor's career really didn't ignite until the '70s. His stand up act became raunchier and more politically motivated as he touched on issued of race, failed relationships, drug addiction, and street crimes. His movie roles became far more captivating in the process: the piano man in Lady Sings the Blues (1972); as a wise-talking hustler in a pair of slick urban thrillers: The Mack (1973) and Uptown Saturday Night (1974); the gregarious Daddy Rich in Car Wash; his first pairing with Gene Wilder as Grover, the car thief who helps stops a runaway train in his first real box office smash Silver Streak (both 1976); and for many critics, his finest dramatic performance as a factory worker on the edge of depression in Paul Schrader's excellent working class drama Blue Collar (1978).

On a personal level, his drug dependency problem worsened, and on June 9, 1980, near tragedy struck when he caught fire while free-basing cocaine. Pryor later admitted that the incident, was, in fact, a suicide attempt, and that his management company created the lie for the press in hopes of protecting him. Fortunately, Pryor had three films in the can that all achieved some level of financial success soon after his setback: another pairing with Gene Wilder in the prison comedy Stir Crazy (1980); a blisteringly funny cameo as God who flips off Andy Kaufman in the warped religious satire In God We Tru$t (1980); an a ex-con helping a social worker (Cicely Tyson) with her foster charges in Bustin' Loose (1981). He capped his recovery with Live on the Sunset Strip (1982), a first-rate documentation of the comic's genius performed in front of a raucous live audience.

In 1983, Pryor signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Columbia Pictures. For many fans and critics, this was the beginning of his downslide. His next few films: The Toy, Superman III (both 1983), and Brewster's Millions (1985) were just tiresome, mediocre comedies. Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling (1986), was his only attempt at producing, directing, and acting, and the film, which was an ambitious autobiographical account of a his life and career, was a box-office disappointment. He spent the remainder of the '80s in middling fare: Condition Critical (1987), Moving; a third pairing with Gene Wilder in See No Evil, Hear No Evil; and his only teaming with Eddie Murphy in Harlem Nights (1989).

In 1986, Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system that curtailed both his personal appearances and his gift for physical comedy in his latter films. By the '90s, little was seen of Pryor, but in 1995, he made a courageous comeback on television when he guest starred on Chicago Hope as an embittered multiple sclerosis patient. His performance earned him an Emmy nomination and he was cast in a few more films: Mad Dog Time (1996), Lost Highway (1997), but his physical ailments prohibited him from performing on a regular basis. In 1998, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington gave Pryor the first Mark Twain Prize for humor. It was fitting tribute for a man who had given so much honesty and innovation in the field of comedy. Pryor is survived by his wife, Jennifer Lee; his sons Richard and Steven; and daughters Elizabeth, Rain and Renee.

by Michael T. Toole
Richard Pryor (1940-2005)

Richard Pryor (1940-2005)

The scathing, brilliantly insightful African-American comic who proved himself on many occasions to be a highly competent screen actor, died of a heart attack on November 10 at his Encino, California home. He was 65. He had been reclusive for years after he publicly announced he was suffering from multiple sclerosis in 1992. He was born Richard Thomas Pryor III on December 1, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois. By all accounts, his childhood was a difficult one. His mother was a prostitute and his grandmother ran a brothel. His father was rarely around and when he was, he would physically abuse him. From a young age, Pryor knew that humor was his weapon of choice to cut through all the swath he came across and would confront in his life. After high school, he enlisted in the Army for a two-year stint (1958-60). When he was discharged (honorably!) he concentrated on stand-up comedy and worked in a series of nightclubs before relocating to New York City in 1963. In 1964, he made his television debut when he was given a slot on the variety program On Broadway Tonight. His routine, though hardly the groundbreaking material we would witness in later years, was very well received, and in the late '60s Pryor found more television work: Toast of the Town, The Wild Wild West, The Mod Squad ; and was cast in a two movies: The Busy Body (1967) with Sid Caesar; and Wild in the Streets (1968) a cartoonish political fantasy about the internment of all American citizens over 30. Pryor's career really didn't ignite until the '70s. His stand up act became raunchier and more politically motivated as he touched on issued of race, failed relationships, drug addiction, and street crimes. His movie roles became far more captivating in the process: the piano man in Lady Sings the Blues (1972); as a wise-talking hustler in a pair of slick urban thrillers: The Mack (1973) and Uptown Saturday Night (1974); the gregarious Daddy Rich in Car Wash; his first pairing with Gene Wilder as Grover, the car thief who helps stops a runaway train in his first real box office smash Silver Streak (both 1976); and for many critics, his finest dramatic performance as a factory worker on the edge of depression in Paul Schrader's excellent working class drama Blue Collar (1978). On a personal level, his drug dependency problem worsened, and on June 9, 1980, near tragedy struck when he caught fire while free-basing cocaine. Pryor later admitted that the incident, was, in fact, a suicide attempt, and that his management company created the lie for the press in hopes of protecting him. Fortunately, Pryor had three films in the can that all achieved some level of financial success soon after his setback: another pairing with Gene Wilder in the prison comedy Stir Crazy (1980); a blisteringly funny cameo as God who flips off Andy Kaufman in the warped religious satire In God We Tru$t (1980); an a ex-con helping a social worker (Cicely Tyson) with her foster charges in Bustin' Loose (1981). He capped his recovery with Live on the Sunset Strip (1982), a first-rate documentation of the comic's genius performed in front of a raucous live audience. In 1983, Pryor signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Columbia Pictures. For many fans and critics, this was the beginning of his downslide. His next few films: The Toy, Superman III (both 1983), and Brewster's Millions (1985) were just tiresome, mediocre comedies. Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling (1986), was his only attempt at producing, directing, and acting, and the film, which was an ambitious autobiographical account of a his life and career, was a box-office disappointment. He spent the remainder of the '80s in middling fare: Condition Critical (1987), Moving; a third pairing with Gene Wilder in See No Evil, Hear No Evil; and his only teaming with Eddie Murphy in Harlem Nights (1989). In 1986, Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system that curtailed both his personal appearances and his gift for physical comedy in his latter films. By the '90s, little was seen of Pryor, but in 1995, he made a courageous comeback on television when he guest starred on Chicago Hope as an embittered multiple sclerosis patient. His performance earned him an Emmy nomination and he was cast in a few more films: Mad Dog Time (1996), Lost Highway (1997), but his physical ailments prohibited him from performing on a regular basis. In 1998, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington gave Pryor the first Mark Twain Prize for humor. It was fitting tribute for a man who had given so much honesty and innovation in the field of comedy. Pryor is survived by his wife, Jennifer Lee; his sons Richard and Steven; and daughters Elizabeth, Rain and Renee. by Michael T. Toole

Uptown Saturday Night


In the early '70s, the blaxploitation cinema wave was garnering both buzz and bucks in American urban markets, and the Hollywood establishment duly noted the significant box-office returns on these modestly made but street-savvy actioners. Warner Brothers was quick to come to terms with Sidney Poitier and hand him the directorial reins on an urban comedy with higher production values than what had gone before. The end product, the enduringly popular Uptown Saturday Night (1974), has just been released to DVD by Warner Home Entertainment, and it retains a lot of its diverting and innocuous charm.

The story's protagonists are a pair of working stiffs, steelworker Steve Jackson (Poitier) and cabbie Wardell Franklin (Bill Cosby), who're out to get a weekend's kicks by sneaking out on their sleeping wives and visiting a legendary after-hours club. The fun winds up coming at a price, as a masked gang raids the place at gunpoint and rolls all the patrons.

As it develops, Steve has more than the obvious reasons to be afraid of facing his wife (Rosalind Cash) in the morning. His missing wallet contained a number that has just hit for $50,000, and Steve and Wardell have to try and subtly nose around the local underworld for a clue to its location. Their efforts get them stumbling into a turf war between the veteran mob boss Geechie Dan Beauford (Harry Belafonte) and the upstart Silky Slim (Calvin Lockhart), and they have to play both sides against the other to get out with their lives, much less the ticket.

The filmmakers' original notion was to cast Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor in the leads; Cosby's interest upon reading the script was in the small role of the low-rent P.I. Sharp Eye Washington. The studio didn't regard the Foxx/Pryor team as bankable, however, and Poitier agreed to star. It worked out for the best; his buddy chemistry with Cosby is palpable, and he proved a very capable straight man in what was essentially his first comic performance. The average joe persona that he took on here was also a big departure from the men of superhuman intelligence and integrity that he played at the height of his stardom, and he made it work.

Cosby complements him well, and the viewer can tell those moments when he's going off the script and adding his own distinct touches. The supporting cast gets plenty of opportunities as well. Belafonte's patently having fun, with his cheeks padded in Don Corleone fashion; a youthful Pryor makes good with his moments as Sharp Eye Washington. Also scoring were Flip Wilson as a no-nonsense reverend, Roscoe Lee Browne as a pretentious congressman, and legendary dancer Harold Nicholas as the diminutive but nasty hood Little Seymour. The response was such that Warners would roll out two more Poitier/Cosby vehicles over the next few years, Let's Do It Again (1975) and A Piece Of The Action (1977).

Warner's DVD presents Uptown Saturday Night in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The video mastering is more than adequate, but it's unfortunate that only a mono audio track is offered. An engaging commentary track comes courtesy of Dr. Todd Boyd, the USC communications professor who authored Am I Black Enough For You: Popular Culture From The 'Hood And Beyond. "Dr. B" gives conversational perspectives about the production, its players, and the era of its release, and also appears on the seven minute featurette The Lowdown On Uptown: A Retrospective. Others sharing insights in the mini-documentary are the film's screenwriter, Richard Wesley; New York Press critic Armond White; and James Earl Jones.

For more information about Uptown Saturday Night, visit Warner Video. To order Uptown Saturday Night, go to TCM Shopping.

by Jay S. Steinberg

Uptown Saturday Night

In the early '70s, the blaxploitation cinema wave was garnering both buzz and bucks in American urban markets, and the Hollywood establishment duly noted the significant box-office returns on these modestly made but street-savvy actioners. Warner Brothers was quick to come to terms with Sidney Poitier and hand him the directorial reins on an urban comedy with higher production values than what had gone before. The end product, the enduringly popular Uptown Saturday Night (1974), has just been released to DVD by Warner Home Entertainment, and it retains a lot of its diverting and innocuous charm. The story's protagonists are a pair of working stiffs, steelworker Steve Jackson (Poitier) and cabbie Wardell Franklin (Bill Cosby), who're out to get a weekend's kicks by sneaking out on their sleeping wives and visiting a legendary after-hours club. The fun winds up coming at a price, as a masked gang raids the place at gunpoint and rolls all the patrons. As it develops, Steve has more than the obvious reasons to be afraid of facing his wife (Rosalind Cash) in the morning. His missing wallet contained a number that has just hit for $50,000, and Steve and Wardell have to try and subtly nose around the local underworld for a clue to its location. Their efforts get them stumbling into a turf war between the veteran mob boss Geechie Dan Beauford (Harry Belafonte) and the upstart Silky Slim (Calvin Lockhart), and they have to play both sides against the other to get out with their lives, much less the ticket. The filmmakers' original notion was to cast Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor in the leads; Cosby's interest upon reading the script was in the small role of the low-rent P.I. Sharp Eye Washington. The studio didn't regard the Foxx/Pryor team as bankable, however, and Poitier agreed to star. It worked out for the best; his buddy chemistry with Cosby is palpable, and he proved a very capable straight man in what was essentially his first comic performance. The average joe persona that he took on here was also a big departure from the men of superhuman intelligence and integrity that he played at the height of his stardom, and he made it work. Cosby complements him well, and the viewer can tell those moments when he's going off the script and adding his own distinct touches. The supporting cast gets plenty of opportunities as well. Belafonte's patently having fun, with his cheeks padded in Don Corleone fashion; a youthful Pryor makes good with his moments as Sharp Eye Washington. Also scoring were Flip Wilson as a no-nonsense reverend, Roscoe Lee Browne as a pretentious congressman, and legendary dancer Harold Nicholas as the diminutive but nasty hood Little Seymour. The response was such that Warners would roll out two more Poitier/Cosby vehicles over the next few years, Let's Do It Again (1975) and A Piece Of The Action (1977). Warner's DVD presents Uptown Saturday Night in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The video mastering is more than adequate, but it's unfortunate that only a mono audio track is offered. An engaging commentary track comes courtesy of Dr. Todd Boyd, the USC communications professor who authored Am I Black Enough For You: Popular Culture From The 'Hood And Beyond. "Dr. B" gives conversational perspectives about the production, its players, and the era of its release, and also appears on the seven minute featurette The Lowdown On Uptown: A Retrospective. Others sharing insights in the mini-documentary are the film's screenwriter, Richard Wesley; New York Press critic Armond White; and James Earl Jones. For more information about Uptown Saturday Night, visit Warner Video. To order Uptown Saturday Night, go to TCM Shopping. by Jay S. Steinberg

Quotes

Trivia

Harry Belafonte's performance is a send-up of Marlon Brando's in The Godfather (1972).

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1974

Released in United States June 1974

Released in United States on Video July 18, 1990

Released in United States 1995

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1974

Released in United States June 1974

Released in United States on Video July 18, 1990

Released in United States 1995 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Blaxploitation, Baby!" June 23 - August 10, 1995.)