When "Stony Island" hit the silver screen

February 16, 2011

Here's a lost gem: The movie Stony Island, directed by Chicago-born Andrew Davis, who'd later helm big budget films like the also filmed-in-Chicago flick, The Fugitive.

Released in 1978, but shot earlier, the movie (originally called My Main Man from Stony Island) is about a group of musicians who form a multi-racial band. It was filmed in Chicago back when movies were rarely shot here. And it was shot on the South Side, which was an even rarer occurrence back then.

Dennis Franz and Rae Dawn Chong--you can see her in the clip above--are also in the movie, as is Susanna Hoffs, later of The Bangles and Ming Tea (Hoffs' mother, Tamar Simon Hoffs, co-wrote the script with Davis and Davis' brother Richard--a musician in real life--plays band member Richie.) The old Burning Spear nightclub at 55th and State is seen. And in a bit of filmmaking reminiscent of Haskell Wexler's dropping his characters in the middle of the actual street disturbances of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Medium Cool, Davis' has his characters showing up at Mayor Richard J. Daley's 1976 funeral.

Stony Island isn't on DVD, which is a shame. There is some pretty funky music by the film's Stony Island Band, put together by legendary producer/sax maestro Gene Barge who appears in the movie as father-figure to the band.

(Indulge me for a moment here: Among Barge's many achievements, he co-wrote "Quarter to Three" by Gary "U.S." Bonds in 1961 and blows the tune's wicked sax solo and is referenced--"Daddy G"--in the song. He also plays sax on Chuck Willis'  "C.C. Rider." Check out Barge's solo at 1:10.)

Back to Stony Island. The 35-second trailer above--with the late Adolph Caesar doing the voice over--gives a few tantalizing glimpses of 1970s Chicago. Is that the old Jackson Park CTA line on 63rd? And at the :17 mark, as the camera glides by that Chicago police squad car, you can catch the marquee of the long-demolished Woods Theater, 54 W. Randolph, in the sideview mirror of the car in which the camera is riding.