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Birth of the Blues (1941)

Approved | | Music | 7 November 1941 (USA)
Jeff grows up near Basin Street in New Orleans, playing his clarinet with the dock workers. He puts together a band, the Basin Street Hot-Shots, which includes a cornet player, Memphis. ... See full summary »


(story), | 1 more credit »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Carolyn Lee ...
Aunt Phoebe Cobb
Louey (as Rochester)
Wolf (as Horace MacMahon)
Ruby Elzy ...
Jack Teagarden ...
Danny Beck ...
Harry Barris ...
Perry Botkin Sr. ...
Leo (as Perry Botkin)
Minor Watson ...
Henri Lambert
Harry Rosenthal ...
Piano Player


Jeff grows up near Basin Street in New Orleans, playing his clarinet with the dock workers. He puts together a band, the Basin Street Hot-Shots, which includes a cornet player, Memphis. They struggle to get their jazz music accepted by the cafe society of the city. Betty Lou joins their band as a singer and gets Louie to show her how to do scat singing. Memphis and Jeff both fall in love with Betty Lou. Written by Lisa Grable <grable@unity.ncsu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Strike Up The Band ! * Here comes happiness . . . in a merry medley of romance . . . and rhythm !




Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

7 November 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sinfonia Bárbara  »

Box Office


$857,283 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)


(Technicolor sequence)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on September 13, 1943 with Bing Crosby reprising his film role. See more »


Referenced in Night Court: The Blues of the Birth (1990) See more »


The Waiter, and the Porter and the Upstairs Maid
Music and Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Performed by Bing Crosby, Mary Martin, Jack Teagarden and band
See more »

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User Reviews

The little girl sparks a sort of magic
7 July 2001 | by See all my reviews

As with many musicals of the era, the little girl of the film sparks a sort of magic, something Carolyn Lee was quite good at. She first appears as six-year-old "Aunt Phoebe" sliding down a spiral banister and landing on Bing Crosby's lap, after which she smashes his lucky hat. Bing, nice guy that he is, takes her on his lap and smiles tremendously. So Phoebe becomes a sort of mascot/hanger-on of the early New Orleans blues band that struggles to survive against strong prejudices against "darkie" music. Every time she opens her little mouth to say a few lines I found myself giggling at her. Some of her pranks are quite memorable. I especially liked the scene where she paints herself in white-face and puts a girdle on for a dress. Her little broom dance with Rochester is also adorable. Carolyn was a very funny little girl. Towards the end of the movie Bing picks her up and lullabies her to sleep with the #1 hit song of 1941, "Melancholy Baby". I never imagined this song was written to sing to six-year-old Carolyn Lee. The Melancholy Baby scene alone is worth the price of admission.

The movie is well filmed, the jazz is great, the acting good and the story interesting. Bing is at his best, Mary Martin is gorgeous and Brian Donlevy with his rakish mustache is quite the rogue. One thing I liked about the film was the close, friendly relationships between the African-American and White jazz musicians. Seems like the jazz folks were ahead of their time and we can only wish that the rest of the country will eventually catch up.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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