Cast that made a classic

This month marks 40 years since the release of Perry Henzell’s sensational movie The Harder They Come which helped introduce Jamaican pop culture to the world. This week, the Jamaica Observer presents a series of stories on the film’s impact and persons who were involved with it.

THE cast director Perry Henzell assembled for his movie, The Harder They Come, were largely neophytes handpicked by Henzell or recommended by Trevor Rhone, who co-wrote the screenplay.

Singer Jimmy Cliff, the film’s star, had been in the spotlight since the early 1960s. He had several ska songs for producer Leslie Kong and sustained that promise in his early 20s with hits like Wonderful World, Beautiful People and You Can Get it if You Really Want.

His role as Ivan marked his acting debut.

With the exception of Janet Bartley, who appeared in several stage productions, most of the main cast had little or no acting experience. Among them was Carl Bradshaw who played Jose.

Bradshaw was a physical education teacher at Excelsior High School when he got the role in 1970, the year Henzell started production. He got in on the recommendation of Yvonne Jones-Brewster, who was the drama teacher at Excelsior.

“It was supposed to be a small part but after Perry saw me perform the character grew into second billing. The Harder They Come really brought me into acting,” Bradshaw told the Jamaica Observer.

Now in his late 60s, Bradshaw has appeared in a number of films including Smile Orange and Kla$h. Here is a look at other cast members of The Harder They Come.

BOB CHARLTON (HILTON)

Anyone who knew him said the role of tough-talking music producer Hilton fit Charlton like the proverbial glove. From St Catherine, he attended Beckford and Smith High School (now St Jago High) and was a giant in the local insurance industry for many years.

A flamboyant figure, Charlton loved to ride horses and owned a Rolls Royce. He operated the Circle V Ranch in Red Hills and Montego Bay where he taught riding and was known for his trademark Stetson hat and cowboy boots.

His friend, politician and publisher Mike Henry, described him as a “perfect character who could sell ice to an Eskimo”.

Charlton founded the Caribbean Health insurance company. Sagicor’s Michael Fraser, who first met Charlton in 1966, hails him as one of the shapers of Jamaica’s insurance industry.

The gregarious Charlton never acted after The Harder They Come. He eventually moved to Toronto, Canada where he died.

WINSTON STONA (DETECTIVE RAY JONES)

A former head boy at Jamaica College, Stona also made his acting debut in The Harder They Come as the corrupt police officer. He followed up in other films such as The Lunatic and Cool Runnings but is widely known in corporate circles as founder and CEO of spice producer Busha Browne.

JANET BARTLEY (ELSA)

Bartley made her acting debut in Festival competitions during the late 1960s and had a bit part in the 1970 pantomime Music Boy which was written by Trevor Rhone. The Trelawny-born actress impressed Henzell and company enough to snare the role of Elsa, Ivan’s lover.

Bartley married David MacDonald, a cameraman for The Harder They Come, and moved to England in the mid-1970s. There, she appeared in the play For Yesterday and the ITV television shows, The Road Runner and No, Moma, No.

Janet Bartley died in London in the 1980s.

BASIL KEANE (PREACHER)

A graduate of Howard University, Keane was a respected dentist and politician. His role as Preacher, Elsa’s guardian, portrayed the powerful influence religious figures had in Jamaica during the early 1970s.

Keane was an unapologetic exponent of black pride. He became a councillor for the Jamaica Labour Party and also featured in other locally made films like 1982’s Countryman.

He died in 1993.

VOLIER JOHNSON (PUSHCART BOY)

A protégé of Trevor Rhone, Johnson started acting at St Andrew Technical High School where Rhone was his drama teacher. His first production was Rhone’s adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Johnson says he was only 19 years old when Rhone approached him to play the genial handcart peddler who rips off Ivan in the film’s opening scene.

“When he told mi about it, I was excited. Just to be in the movie was great, no matter how small the part was,” said Johnson.

He recalls that small part taking an eternity to shoot.

“It was in Parade (downtown Kingston) an’ the people kept looking in the camera. I remember we started filming the afternoon an’ because of that wi had to come back the next day an’ finish.”

Johnson became a prolific stage actor, starring in numerous plays. He has appeared in two other movies: Milk and Honey and Better Mus’ Come.

Singer Jimmy Cliff, the film’s star, had been in the spotlight since the early 1960s.

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