The Cool World (film)

The Cool World is a 1963 feature film directed by Shirley Clarke about African-American life in the Royal Pythons, a youth gang in Harlem.[1] In 1994, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The film is considered by some critics to be the first film within the Blaxploitation genre.

The Cool World
Theatrical poster
Directed byShirley Clarke
Produced byFrederick Wiseman
Written byWarren Miller (novel)
Robert Rossen (play)
Shirley Clarke (screenplay)
StarringHampton Clanton
Yolanda Rodríguez
Antonio Fargas
Carl Lee
Clarence Williams III
Music byMal Waldron (composer)
The Dizzy Gillespie quintet (performer)
Wiseman Film Productions
Distributed by[Cinema V]
Release date
  • September 2, 1963 (1963-09-02)
Running time
125 min.
CountryUnited States

Cast and crew

The Cool World stars real Harlem youth, and some real gang members:

  • Rony Clanton (as Hampton Clanton) (Duke, a fifteen-year-old)
  • Carl Lee (Priest, a neighborhood gangster, is killed by the Mob)
  • Yolanda Rodríguez (LuAnne, a prostitute used by the Royal Pythons)
  • Clarence Williams III (Blood, the gang's president)
  • Gary Bolling (Littleman, killed by a rival gang, the Wolves)
  • Bostic Felton (Rod)
  • Joe Oliver (Angel, leader of the Wolves, is killed by the Royal Pythons)
  • Gloria Foster (Duke's Mom)
  • Ted Butler (Mom's lover)
  • Marilyn Cox (Priest's woman, a prostitute)
  • Antonio Fargas
  • The Dizzy Gillespie quintet

Original music by Mal Waldron and cinematography by Baird Bryant

Production background

This semi-documentary style movie was produced by soon-to-be documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, directed by Shirley Clarke, and adapted by Clarke and Carl Lee from the 1959 novel The Cool World by Warren Miller.

A play, written by Miller and Robert Rossen based on the novel, was first shown in Philadelphia and then twice at Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theatre on February 22 and 23, 1960, featuring Raymond St. Jacques, James Earl Jones, Calvin Lockhart, Hilda Simms, and others.[2] The film helped launch Antonio Fargas, Clarence Williams III, Carl Lee, and Gloria Foster, who married Williams three years later.


The soundtrack to the film was recorded by Dizzy Gillespie and his quintet, and was released as an album of the same name in 1964.

See also


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