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Covering a quarter-century of American 'syncopated" music (Ragtime, Jazz, Swing, Blues, Boogie Woogie)from prior to WWI through prohibition, the stock-market crash, the depression and the outbreak of WWII. A romance between singer Kit Latimer, from New Orleans, and Johnny Schumacher, in which they share and argue over musical ideas ensues. Prior to the making of the film RKO held a contest for the readers of 'The Saturday Evening Post" to vote on the musicians to make up the All-American Dance Band featured in the film; the magazine's readers chose, in the above-the-title listing: Charlie Barnet, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Jack Jenney. Gene Krupa, Alvino Rey, Joe Venuti, and singer Connee Boswell. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
George Latimer (Adolphe Menjou) and his daughter Kit (Bonita Granville) live in New Orleans, the city of jazz. Unfortunately, the family business is not doing well and has to relocate to Chicago. Kit is heartbroken, but she agrees to the move with the promise that they will return someday. As she gets older, she never loses her love of jazz and plays it whenever she gets a chance. One night, she goes for a walk and comes across Johnny Schumacher (Jackie Cooper), a down and out musician. He takes her to a party where they play a new variation on New Orleans jazz and she brings down the house with her piano-playing. Her confidence gives Johnny a new outlook on his love for music, although money is always a temptation.
Syncopation could have been much better, but it constantly strays from the fact that jazz music came from the black community. It begins with black people, one of the rare opportunities in classic films for black actors to shine, but that quickly disappears in favor of the white stars. Noteworthy players are Todd Duncan as trumpet-player Rex Tearbone and Jessica Grayson as his mother. The movie becomes a bit of a cliché with the actors struggling against all odds only to inspire the greats like Benny Goodman and Harry James. Unfortunately black musicians like Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, and Duke Ellington are left out of the grand finale.
As it stands, Syncopation is an entertaining movie with lots of great music, but it is simply average overall. It never sticks to a time period, but what it lacks in accuracy, it makes up for with catchy tunes and praise-worthy leading actors. Granville is dazzlingly beautiful throughout the movie and she and real-life boyfriend Cooper work well together on-screen.
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