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The rise and rise of the Fabulous Dorsey brothers is charted in this whimsical step down memory lane, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey play themselves in this vehicle for their excellent music. From being raised by their father who insists on them learning music, to the split that just saw their careers rise even further. Written by
Paul Batey <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The miracle in getting this film together was to get the Dorsey Brothers on the same sound-stage for this independent production released by United Artists. The feuding brothers who led two of the best and best known bands of the swing era was a story well known to the American movie going public.
Because of that and because their names and faces were so well known to the American public that certain parameters were put on the producers right from the start. That is the reason the brothers played themselves I'm thinking, despite the fact that as actors they were great musicians. It reminds me of The Jackie Robinson Story which was done a few years later where Robinson played himself and great athlete that he was, he just wasn't an actor.
Carrying the acting part of the film were Janet Blair and William Lundigan playing a singer and piano player whose lives were intertwined with the Dorseys. The only part of the film that was true was the breakup. The two brothers feuded constantly and were most competitive even as kids. As it is shown here, is exactly how the breakup occurred.
Also in the film were Mom and Pop Dorsey played by Sara Allgood and Arthur Shields. It is also true that they did grow up in the Pennsylvania coal mining country and that their father made them take music lessons as a way of escaping that life.
After leaving Paul Whiteman whose orchestra was the nurturing ground for an incredible amount of the musical talent in this country for a couple of generations, the Dorseys did strike out on their own with a joint band. And the split occurred exactly as it is shown on screen, they couldn't do it any other way, the story was part of swing lore. But as individual band leaders Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey scored their greatest success in the swing era. From 1935 when the split occurred until the end of World War II which was the end of the Big Band era, both orchestras were consistently in the top five of bands in any poll that was taken.
Jimmy was the quieter, more restrained and nicer of the brothers. Tommy's temper was legendary, but he had some of the best musicians around in his band and he ran it with an iron fist. One of the big parts of Tommy's story was his singer from 1940 to 1942 who when he went out on his own became probably the most famous graduate of either band. The parting with Tommy Dorsey was not a pleasant one for Frank Sinatra, although later on Sinatra gave Dorsey a lot of credit for the career he had. In fact he said that the way Tommy Dorsey played the trombone was whom he patterned his singing style after.
Jimmy had a couple of pretty good singers with his band as well with Helen O'Connell and Bob Eberly, both who had substantial careers, although not in the Sinatra league. Some five years after this film was made, the brothers did reunite.
Tommy died in 1956, a freak accidental death in his sleep as he regurgitated part of a heavy meal he just had and choked on it because of the pills he had taken. Sadly Jimmy Dorsey at the time of his brother's death knew he had a terminal throat cancer and he died in 1957. Their combined music will live on forever, providing enjoyment to millions.
And the music is the reason to watch The Fabulous Dorseys. This review is dedicated to those battling brothers who made so much good music together and so much better apart.
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