A year after Hurricane Katrina, Henry, a surgeon in the affluent Garden District of New Orleans, is attempting to get his life back on track. He is remarrying his ex-wife, renovating her ... See full summary »
Jason Butler Harner
Based on an actual strike against the Empire Zinc Mine in New Mexico, the film deals with the prejudice against the Mexican-American workers, who struck to attain wage parity with Anglo ... See full summary »
High School Teenagers in 1979 suburb of New Orleans (Fat City) go to nightclubs and discos when the drinking age was just 18 years old and not really enforced. Elvis Costello, The Knack and... See full summary »
Ephraim Cabot is an old man of amazing vitality who loves his New England farm with a greedy passion. Hating him, and sharing his greed, are the sons of two wives Cabot has overworked into ... See full summary »
Light bio-pic of American Broadway pioneer Jerome Kern, featuring renditions of the famous songs from his musical plays by contemporary stage artists, including a condensed production of ... See full summary »
When allied troops liberate a small battle-scarred Belgium town in 1944 the American and British commanders do all they can to help the war-weary people back on their feet. There are mental... See full summary »
Herbert J. Biberman
Gangster's moll Honey Swanson goes into hiding when her boyfriend is under investigation by the police. Where better to hide than a musical research institute staffed entirely by lonely ... See full summary »
Captain Wade Hunnicutt is the wealthiest and most powerful citizen in his Texan town; he is also a notorious womanizer, which has turned his wife Hannah against him. She has brought up ... See full summary »
Larry Poole, in prison on a false charge, promise an inmate that when he gets out he will look up and help out a family. The family turns out to be a young girl, Patsy Smith, and her ... See full summary »
Love this movie for what it is, not for what it could have been
"New Orleans" started out as an Orson Welles project at RKO -- a Louis Armstrong biopic with Armstrong playing himself -- and it morphed through several different incarnations (including a version by writer Valentine Davies that ultimately got filmed as "Syncopation" in 1942) before ending up with producer Jules Levey as the film we have. There's certainly a sense of might-have-been about this movie that was only accentuated in the early 1980's when an independent jazz reissue label called Legends released the surviving pre-recordings made by Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday in October 1946 for use in the film -- including a treasure trove of music that hadn't made it anywhere near the final cut -- and the idea of basing a film about the history of jazz around a set of boring white characters and reducing the African-Americans to extras in their own story is all too familiar in Hollywood's treatment of just about any story involving African-based politics or culture.
Now for the good news: within the horrible limits of the concept, the script is relatively well constructed, and Arthur Lubin's direction shows some visual imagination -- notably in the opening tracking shot through the streets of back-lot "New Orleans" before the camera enters Arturo de Cordova's cabaret/casino and discovers Louis Armstrong and his band playing "West End Blues" (inexplicably renamed "Name-Your-Poison Blues" in the film). In her autobiography "Lady Sings the Blues" Billie Holiday vividly registered her disgust at being cast as a maid, and in the scenes with Dorothy Patrick she's visibly stiff, barely able to get the servile dialogue out of her mouth -- but when she shows up at the cabaret set and gets to sing with Armstrong's band she visibly loosens up and becomes a relaxed and quite effective screen presence. My partner noted the similarities between "New Orleans" and the 1936 MGM film "San Francisco" -- both are about gamblers who own night clubs and opera singers who climb down from their pedestals to perform popular music, and the (real) closure of New Orleans' Storyville red-light district in 1917 fulfills the same climactic story function as the 1906 earthquake and fire did in "San Francisco."
The first time I saw any part of "New Orleans" was at a screening of jazz movies in 1970, at which the host presented three numbers from the film ("Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?," "Where the Blues Were Born in New Orleans" and "Farewell to Storyville") that had been blown up from 8 mm sound prints released for home sales in France. The host said that the rest of the film had been lost, so it was quite surprising to me when I got to see the complete version twice in 1973 on an independent local TV station in the San Francisco Bay Area. Then I didn't see the film again until Kino released it on DVD, and having got over my disappointment at what it could have been, this time I could appreciate it for what it is: a flawed movie with an almost unbearably pretentious ending but still a quite entertaining film as well as a chance to see Armstrong and Holiday at the peak of their powers. (Woody Herman is hardly showcased to good effect even though he was leading perhaps the best band of his career, the "First Herd," at the time.) And I'm surprised the other commentator mentioning the greatest jazz movies left out my all-time favorite, Clint Eastwood's "Bird."
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