Bio of swing band leader 'Benny Goodman' from age 10 (1919) to his landmark Carnegie Hall band concert in 1938. Not exactly historically accurate, but great music. Also, guest appearances ... See full summary »
Bio of swing band leader 'Benny Goodman' from age 10 (1919) to his landmark Carnegie Hall band concert in 1938. Not exactly historically accurate, but great music. Also, guest appearances by many great musicians of the time. Written by
Don Femia <email@example.com>
Benny Goodman played all the clarinet music heard on the soundtrack himself, with the exception of the scene where the young Goodman first tried to play the clarinet - the squeaky notes were actually played by Steve Allen. See more »
At the end of the clarinet concerto, the first violinist stands up twice. See more »
Benny Goodman's theme song is played over the appearance of the "Universal International" globe. See more »
Reasonable retelling of a portion of BG's life story
Growing up in the 40's in Brooklyn, I heard the music of BG, Miller, Dorsey, Shaw, etc. on the family radio(Martin Block's "Make Believe Ballroom"). I became a big fan of Benny's in 1950, with the release of the Columbia LP of the Carnegie Hall concert and the 1937-1938 radio broadcast albums.The music on these live performance albums was outstanding and spontaneous as opposed to the sterile studio recordings locked into a 3 minute format for 78 rpm records. These albums resulted in a resurgence of Benny's popularity and, ultimately lead to the movie.
Steve Allen, while not a great choice, was probably the best at that time, since he was a popular TV personality and was a music lover and musician in his own right. As for Donna Reed, well what can anyone say except that she was as beautiful as ever and the consummate pro as the female lead. A fairly fast paced film with loads of musical guest stars and some pretty good tunes made famous by and played by BG for the soundtrack.
Benny was not an exciting or controversial guy, so how do you generate enough interest to draw people to the movie,as is the case today. In 1955, good music did the trick. About the only controversy about Benny was his reputation of staring down any band member who diverted from the the arrangement. One former musician described in an interview how "the old man gave me the evil stare for the whole number after hitting a wrong note early on".
Too bad they could not synchronize the actual concert music with the movie. In particular, the quartet version of "Stompin At The Savoy" in which Gene Krupa's cymbal flew off the stand and was hit by Lionel Hampton on the way by without missing a beat, or the concert rendition of "Sing,Sing,Sing", probably the best ever recorded.
If you like this film go out and buy the newly released CD of the Carnegie Hall concert complete with 2 numbers previously excluded from other releases with intros by BG and no interruptions between numbers allowing you to hear the sounds of the band setting up for the next number, etc. Just like being there.
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