The Cool World (1964) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Cool World1964

The Cool World (1964)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Cool World Photos

Movie Info

No relation to the later Ralph Bakshi semi-animated feature of the same name, Cool World is set in the meanest sections of Harlem. Hampton Clayton plays Duke, a powerful street gang member who claims that he is motivated by the Black Muslim movement. His subsequent criminal activities are thus not merely for gain, but as a means to declare black supremacy over the white establishment. One of director Shirley Clarke's few mainstream projects, Cool World was the first commercial film venture to be shot on location in Harlem. The largely unknown cast features future luminaries (and husband and wife) Clarence Williams III and Gloria Foster.


Carl Lee
as Priest
Gary Bolling
as Littleman
George Burke
as Grandma
Gloria Foster
as Mrs. Custis
Billy Taylor
as Mission
Jay Brooks
as Littleman's Father
Marilyn Cox
as Miss Dewpoint
Jerome Raphel
as Mr. Shapiro
J.C. Lee
as Coolie
Bert Donaldson
as Forty-Five
Dennis Joseph
as Douglas Thurston
Ted Butler
as Mr. Osborne
Nettie Avery
as Big Daddy
Sandra McPherson
as Coney Island Girl
Wilbur Green
as Priest's Buddy
Val Bisoglio
as Gangster
Vic Romano
as Gangster
Richard Ward
as Street Speaker
View All

Critic Reviews for The Cool World

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (6)

Clarke's images endow the characters' energies with a sculptural grandeur and embrace street life with a keenly attentive, unsentimental avidity.

November 20, 2017 | Full Review…

The only thing that could make this world cooler would be a gun, and in the boy's quest to acquire one from a local hustler, Clarke shows a needy child maturing into a hardened criminal.

March 17, 2016 | Full Review…

As we've come to expect of Miss Clarke's pictures, it is boldly and studiously styled as a literal documentation of a particular social scene, and its attack is more that of the reporter than of the interested teller of a tale.

March 27, 2012 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Often crudely photographed, but with a brilliantly multi-layered sound-track which integrates some fine jazz.

March 27, 2012 | Full Review…
Top Critic

It certainly had a visceral impact when it first appeared, helped enormously by Baird Bryant's cinematography and Dizzy Gillespie's score.

March 27, 2012

Sometimes the characters get a bit lost in the general schematics of the pic, which at times waters down its underlying irony. But, overall, Clarke has a firm hold on her characters and story.

February 23, 2012 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Cool World

a semi-documentary made by shirley clarke, recognized as one of the leading independent film makers of the early 60s new american cinema. starring real harlem youth and gang members, the film explores the ghetto slum life of drugs and violence without the heavy moralizing of most hollywood films of the period. brilliant editing and killer jazz score by the dizzy gillespie quintet

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

The Cool World Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

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