|Index||8 reviews in total|
Kay Kyser had many top-selling recordings, but his Kollege of Musical
Knowledge show, both live and on the radio, was more of a floor show
than the performances of other swing bands and orchestras. His show is,
of course, incorporated into this film. So in that respect, the film
bears resemblance to other films in which Kyser appeared.
The extra bonus is the addition of sweet and lovely Ann Miller to the cast. Unfortunately, her one and only dance performance is butchered by cutaway shots and editing, so that about half is gone. You can only faintly hear the singing and tapping in the background.
What's left, however, is still pure Miller magic. Nobody else was such a machine-gun on feet.
The best part of "Carolina Blues" is the title music, a very swinging instrumental of "There Goes That Song Again", ending with a close-up of Kay conducting his band. Story line is not all that compelling, and Victor Moore's comedic contributions are many and mostly ineffective(however, he WAS pushing 70 at the time, so the physical bit he tries to do, I'm sure, was quite difficult). A plus is the several accurate references to Kay's hometown of Rocky Mount and surrounding areas, along with playing a show in a local tobacco warehouse. In eastern North Carolina, on the too-rare occasion that a big band did come to town, tobacco warehouses were just about the only facilities big enough to host their dances. According to Steven Beasley's new book on Kay, Kyser himself did play a date at a tobacco warehouse in Rocky Mount, 4 years earlier, as part of that town hosting the world premiere of his first movie, "That's Right, You're Wrong". So, there is a bit of a thrill for this eastern Nawth Cahlinian in hearing places and things from our neck of the woods mentioned in a movie.
A big band goes through shenanigans trying to raise money for WWII
Typical wartime musical on a B-budget. There's lots of bounce with engaging performers, but I could have used a better distribution of musical numbers. Mainly they're bunched into one segment, while the rest is taken up with storyline. The nimble-footed Step Bros., however, have to be seen to be believed. Plus, Ann Miller sings and dancers her way into our collective heart, along with a gorgeous Georgia Carroll.
Kyser may have been a big band conductor, but he's quite a good actor, even comedic one. Then there's Victor Moore in multiple curmudgeonly parts, and Ish Kabibble looking like a handsomer version of the Three Stooges. Put them all together, and the 'gang' comes up with enough war- bonds to finance a new navy cruiser. I guess those were the days when we actually paid up front for our wars. Anyhow, it's nothing special, just a light-hearted look at America pulling together during the Big One, with a few lively tunes thrown in.
Out of the 7 feature films starring Big Bandleader Kay Kyser, i rate this one dead last. I hate to say it, as I've commented on other Kyser films, and am a BIG Kyser enthusiast, but this, his one film for Columbia, and as it turned out, his last feature, is just embarrassing. It wasn't his fault. It was that Columbia had NO idea what to do with him. Kyser started w/ RKO in '39, did 5 features there, and was very successful. Then one for MGM, SWING FEVER, which was not very good, but better than this. But i digress...I don't know if it's just my 16mm transfer to vhs, but the production values seem cheap, as in dark lighting. The great band doesn't get enough to do, and though Ann Miller is good, comic relief Victor Moore practically chews the scenery. In a scene in a taxi, you can see Kyser mouth the other actor's line as he delivers it. The first 3 Kyser films are priceless in my book, as the freshness and heart are so very apparent. But this really drags. Thank God Ish Kabibble (Merwyn Bogue)is in fine, dumb-as-a-brick form.
I like neither Kyser's screen persona nor his bland style of swing, so
wouldn't ever recommend going to a film to see him. But he sometimes
had a talent for pepping up his films with good specialty acts.
The show-stopper in this film is the "Mr. Beebe" number, featuring Harold Nicholas (without brother Fayard), supported by a number of other top black singers and dancers including The Four Step Brothers, Marie Bryant, June Richmond, and others I can't identify. Kyser's band with Ann Miller singing briefly introduce the number, then leave the set - typical for the era, the scene was clearly designed so that the black performers could be edited out when the film was shown in the south.
The disappointment is that all that talent, including Ann Miller, is given very little footage to show their stuff. Miller's only tap number is hacked by some dialog. Harold Nicholas is brilliant, but the other singers and dancers in the number only get to do quick cameos.
The Kyser personnel do get to do a couple of other cute numbers. Significantly, these occur informally, when Kyser isn't directing or arranging them.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The lack of a story, outlandishly unfunny jokes and an obnoxious
structure make this single Columbia entry of Kay Kyser's brief foray
into film makes this World War II musical farce instantly forgettable.
If jokes like this were supposed to have killed vaudeville, it also
cremated it as well. At RKO Radio, at least Kyser had some amusing
plots, while thin, at least proved some memorable entertainment with
the silliness not cringe-worthy. The musical numbers in those films
were way above average when compared to what ends up on screen here.
For example, if you're going to give Ann Miller a tap number, don't
start the number by the audience hearing the taps while the camera
focuses on Kay; go straight to "Miss Thunder Thighs" rather than tease
us with what we're missing.
What there is of a plot line surrounds Kyser's attempts to put on a show to sell war bonds to build a new naval destroyer. As "well meaning" as the plot is, the result is a tremendously unfunny attempt at war time patriotism that is propaganda at its worst. When the funniest idea is to have Victor Moore play practically everybody in his family (including several women) and even that doesn't get laughs, there's definitely something rotten in the world of entertainment. His performance, in fact, seems strained, making this a sad moment in the career of one of the most lovable comics in Broadway and film history.
Moore's major character is the black sheep of a wealthy family who pretends to be wealthy so his daughter (Miller) can work in Kay's traveling show. When the rest of his clan shows up, the visuals are pretty frightening. Even scarier visually is the sight of Ish Kabibble's family, all wearing that same scary hairstyle (including the dog!). An extremely dumb subplot has Ish being stalked by the star-struck Jeff Donnell.
Musically, this is the weakest of Kay's movie musicals, with only one big number (the well staged "Mr. Beebe" which features Harold Nicholas and the amble June Richmond) standing out. The opening theme, I might add, was later utilized as the jazzy music in the background of the Joan Crawford slasher epic "Straight Jacket", utilized here as the music for a love song with extremely unromantic lyrics. This is a total mess on so many different levels, but I know I will re-visit it at some point, if only for the dancing in "Mr. Beebe" which includes the clever reference to the "Harlem Easter Parade".
Just like Swing Fever--released in the same year--Carolina Blues
features the corny persona of Kay Kyser. The guy has as much charisma
as Bing Crosby, which is to say not much.
Here again, Ann Miller does not get enough time on the dance floor. She is so fresh faced in these early films; if only they had featured her talents more.
I still have not figured out which band member sports bangs and again plagues this movie with his senseless, humorless bits.
Some of the music by Styne and Cahn is really disappointing. The lyrics are silly--and not in a good way.
I tuned into this movie half way thru, but apparently I've seen more
than poster "It Lives", who wrote a review apparently without seeing
any of this movie. This movie has a great musical section with
spectacular dancing from Harold Nicholas, The Step Brothers, the Layson
Brothers, well you can read the credits. So his comments about the lack
of black performers in a Kay Kyser movie isn't true of this movie. This
movie preserves the work of these wonderful dancers. "It Lives" comment
should have been put on Kay Kyser's page or the the page of the movie
he's actually referring to, if he could remember which one.
If you look him up, Kyser called his band the Kollege of Musical Knowledge. Corny yeah, but how is that racist? Where is the 3 K's in that? If there was a movie where a big band was dressed like the KKK I think that movie would be famous for that, and I've never heard of it. I looked on Wikipedia and I didn't see anything about Kyser and race, I googled it and I didn't see any connection with him and the KKK, though please correct me if its there. At one point in this movie there's a discussion about whether Ann Miller will sing with another famous band, such as Cab Calloway.
I'm guessing that the music business, especially the big bands, were not nearly as racist as other US institutions at the time, because black musicians were so talented they were pretty much in the process of inventing modern music and everybody sort of jumped on board what they were doing. If there were no black musicians in Kyser's band in the movie the first poster saw, maybe its because he played music, per quotes in his IMDb bio, that was "corny" and "sweet" and that's not where black musicians were going.
I'm not saying there wasn't something racist about Kyser's success, I mean obviously, he got to be a movie star, not a more talented band leader, like Duke Ellington, but "It Lives" post doesn't exactly make the case for Kyser being a symbol of racism, or whatever he was trying to say.
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