Cotton Club is about the interconnected lives of the black entertainers who performed there and the white gangsters who ran it.

Type: Scripted

Languages: English

Status: In Development

Runtime: 60 minutes

Premier: None

Cotton Club - Cotton Club - Netflix

The Cotton Club was a New York City nightclub located in Harlem on 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue from 1923 to 1935, then briefly in the midtown Theater District from 1936 to 1940. The club operated most notably during the United States' era of Prohibition. The club was a whites-only establishment, but featured many of the most popular black entertainers of the era, including musicians Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Chick Webb, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Fats Waller, Willie Bryant; vocalists Adelaide Hall, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, Aida Ward, Avon Long, the Dandridge Sisters, the Will Vodery Choir, The Mills Brothers, Nina Mae McKinney, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne; and dancers Bill Robinson, The Nicholas Brothers, Charles 'Honi' Coles, Leonard Reed, Stepin Fetchit, the Berry Brothers, The Four Step Brothers, Jeni Le Gon and Earl Snakehips Tucker. At its prime, the Cotton Club served as a hip meeting spot, with regular “Celebrity Nights” on Sundays featuring guests such as Jimmy Durante, George Gershwin, Sophie Tucker, Paul Robeson, Al Jolson, Mae West, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Langston Hughes, Judy Garland, Moss Hart, and Jimmy Walker, among others.

Cotton Club - The Harlem years - Netflix

Shows at the Cotton Club were musical revues, and several were called “Cotton Club Parade” followed by the year. The revues featured dancers, singers, comedians, and variety acts, as well as a house band. These revues helped launch the careers of many artists, including Fletcher Henderson, who led the Cotton Club's first house band in 1923. Duke Ellington's orchestra was the house band from December 4, 1927 until June 30, 1931. The first revue that Ellington's orchestra performed was called “Rhythmania” and featured Adelaide Hall. Hall had just recorded several songs with Ellington, including “Creole Love Call”, which became a worldwide hit. The club gave Ellington national exposure through radio broadcasts originating there (first over WHN, then over WEAF, and after September 1929 on Fridays over the NBC Red Network, for which WEAF was the flagship station). The club also enabled him to develop his repertoire while composing dance tunes for the shows as well overtures, transitions, accompaniments, and “jungle” effects, giving him a freedom to experiment with orchestral arrangements that touring bands rarely experienced. Ellington recorded more than 100 compositions during this period. Eventually, responding to Ellington's request, the club slightly relaxed its policy of segregation. Cab Calloway's orchestra brought its “Brown Sugar” revue to the club in 1930, replacing Ellington's orchestra after its departure in 1931. Jimmie Lunceford's band replaced Calloway's in 1934. Ellington, Calloway, and Louis Armstrong returned to perform at the club in later years. Lena Horne (Leona Laviscount) began at the Cotton Club as a chorus girl at the age of sixteen, and sang “Sweeter than Sweet” with Calloway. Dorothy Dandridge performed at the club while part of the Dandridge Sisters, and Coleman Hawkins and Don Redman played at the club as part of Henderson's band. Tap dancers Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Sammy Davis Jr. (as part of the Will Mastin Trio), and the Nicholas Brothers performed at the club as well. The club also drew from white popular culture. Walter Brooks, who had produced the successful Broadway show Shuffle Along, was the club's nominal owner. Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, one of the most prominent songwriting teams of the era, and Harold Arlen wrote the songs for the revues, one of which, Blackbirds of 1928, starring Adelaide Hall, featured the songs “I Can't Give You Anything But Love” and “Diga Diga Doo”, produced by Lew Leslie on Broadway. In 1934, Hall starred in the “Cotton Club Parade 1934”, the highest-grossing show ever to appear at the club. The show opened on March 11, 1934, and ran for eight months, attracting over 600,000 paying customers. The score was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler and featured the classic song “Ill Wind”. During Hall's performance of “Ill Wind”, a dry-ice machine was used to create a fog effect, the first time such equipment had been used on a stage. Sixteen-year-old Lena Horne was also featured on the bill.

Cotton Club - References - Netflix