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The Benny Goodman Story
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The Benny Goodman Story More at IMDbPro »

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21 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Reasonable retelling of a portion of BG's life story

29 April 2003

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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20 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

A great film

Author: Elgroovio from Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
19 May 2004

This film is considered by many as being a pretty mediocre film, but I think this film is truly great. Maybe it's just a jazz-lover's point of view; Benny Goodman is my favourite artist, and is the man who inspired me to take up the clarinet. Steve Allen comes across as a likable Goodman, and manages to look the part. Donna Reed also does her job pretty well but the people in the film who will really catch your attention are the jazz musicians that are in the film, playing themselves. These musicians include: the very enthusiastic drummer Gene Krupa, the trombone player Edward "Kid" Ory, the vibraphone player Lionel Hampton and the famous band leader and drummer of the '20s Ben Pollack. Whether you like the film or not, you have got to like the music which includes such Goodman classics as "Don't be that way", "Sing, Sing, Sing", "Let's Dance" and "One o'clock jump". All in all, a highly enjoyable film which, as far as I am concerned, is better than the much acclaimed film "The Glenn Miller Story" starring James Stewart in the part of Miller. "The Benny Goodman Story" is a must-see for all jazz fanatics and all clarinet players. The film also features a very impressive rendition of Mozart's clarinet concerto (Goodman also gave classical music a try, as you can see, to great effect). I'd say that it is decidedly worth seeing. Enjoy!

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12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant, touching, entertaining!

Author: steve-862 from London, England
26 December 2004

I may have seen this film more than 20 times, unfortunately it has been unavailable in the UK for 10 years and not on TV all that time so I'm missing it right now. It is such a good film whether you enjoy Benny Goodman's music or jazz for that matter or not. Benny Goodman's life was pretty interesting anyway and it's portrayal in this movie is fairly accurate. The music score covers all the best from Benny Goodman and his Orchestra and is a tribute to one of the earlier band leaders in Jazz. There were not too many bands with both black and white members at that time but this was such a band. What was great for the Benny Goodman Orchestra was the fact that many of the members were such well known and respected performers themselves. There was such talent in that group of musicians and how fortunate it was that they should all come together at that time to create and play some brilliant music.

With regard to the film it is based on the life of Benny Goodman and if you know about him the presence of spoilers here would not ruin things. In short though this film shows Benny Goodman from a young boy through to after he has made a success of himself. His challenges, disappointments, love interests are all a part of the story through the film.

I couldn't fault anything in this film, direction, acting, all of it is just right and it makes for a film you can enjoy over and over again.

They certainly don't make movies like this anymore.

9 out of 10. (I reserved 10 out of 10 for my very best 3 or 4 films, this is a top 10 of mine still).

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Pleasant Goodman Biopic

Author: harry-76 from Cleveland, Ohio
6 May 2000

Jazz enthusiasts in particular, and pop 40s devotees in general will enjoy the fine jazz renditions in "The Benny Goodman Story." Some very fine clarinet playing is heard on the soundtrack by Goodman himself, and there are many wonderful jazz musicians heard and seen as guests in the film. While Benny's story may well have been "reinvented" a bit for story's sake, the over all feel to the film is a typical rise from humble beginnings to the heights of stardom scenario. Those who'll enjoy the musical performances without being too critical on factual matters will undoubtedly find this a pleasant film. Goodman's famed Carnegie Hall concert is recreated as the movie's climax--and what a concert that was!

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Well made biopic of the first man to front an integrated band.

Author: ianlouisiana from United Kingdom
5 April 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Benny Goodman is respected in jazz circles not only as the first virtuoso clarinetist in the field,but,more importantly and influentially,leading the first band to have both black and white musicians on the stage at the same time.In Ken Burns' epic TV series "Jazz" BG is one of the few white musicians to get much more than a token mention - his importance in the social history not only of jazz but of the very fabric of life in America cannot be overstated.After the success of "The Glenn Miller Story" it was inevitable that Miller's more talented contemporary would become the subject of a biopic - the major difference being BG was still alive. Although respected by his peers BG was not liked,he was not a tolerant man and was very conscious of his "star" status,if any of his sidemen got more applause than he did he would go into a sulk and cut the solo out the next night.Of necessity,the portrayal of him by Mr. Steve Allen was not very accurate,although there was a remarkable physical similarity. Mr Allen,a great jazz lover and a fine pianist,taught himself to play the clarinet for the role and made BG seem a bit like an absent-minded professor,until he picked up his horn. Miss Donna Reed,beautiful,talented and,sadly,rarely mentioned nowadays in film literature adds style and class as the future Mrs BG. The music is wonderful,as it should be with the cream of former Goodman alumni to choose from.There are featured roles for Mr Teddy Wilson,Mr Lionel Hampton and Mr Gene Krupa(soon to have his own biopic with Sal Mineo in the lead).Of the older generation Mr Ben Pollack and Mr Edward "Kid" Ory are particularly welcome. The climax to the film is the legendary Carnegie Hall concert of 1938. The movie led to a welcome resurgence of interest in BG's music and a lot of British jazzmen went into the recording studios with "hommage" Benny Goodman quartets which must have helped to pay the mortgage. With the aforementioned "Drum Crazy - The Gene Krupa Story",the jazz biopic craze fizzled out,although W.C.Handy got a look in with "St. Louis Blues - The Story of W.C.Handy",but it was dire and failed to put bums on seats. Not until Clint Eastwood's "Bird" did the genre revive,however temporarily.By then both the movies and their audience had changed irrevocably. I suspect if "The Benny Goodman Story" was to be remade today it would be less adulatory in tone.The one story that I think sums him up most accurately and not unpleasingly concerns a rehearsal conducted in an unheated room.One after the other,band members complained about the cold until BG finally looked up from his music stand and said"You're right,it is cold".He put his clarinet down and went out of the room.The musicians cheered up,thinking he had gone to arrange for some heating.Three minutes later he came back wearing a thick pullover.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Formula..but oh, that music!

Author: rube2424 from New York, USA
19 April 2003

THE BENNY GOODMAN story, the half brother of the GLENN MILLER STORY and the GENE KRUPA STORY and the first cousin of THE FABULOUS DORSEY'S is a made to order biopic that lacks ooomph because of the reticence of the title character. Steve Allen's Goodman doesn't have the boyish enthusiasm that James Stewart had as Miller, but rather a quiet nerdishness that although possibly respresenting the person correctly, doesn't make for thrilling cinema. Because of this, Allen treads water valiantly, while all Donna Reed has to do is look lovingly at him and look as beautiful as, well, Donna Reed. (The real find in the film is Berta Gerstein, of whom I had never heard, but who I gather from reading the IMBD database, must have been a Yiddish theater/cinema star, as Benny Goodman's mother. She is so real that she makes the rest of the actors seem like cardboard.) But what a treat it is to see and hear Kid Ory, Harry James, Martha Tilton, Lionel Hampton, Ziggy Elman, Urbie Green and to hear Goodman himself.

Where the film shines is in its music and never more so than at the halfway point's Paramount Theater engagement and the ending's Carnegie Hall concert of 1938. In these two spots the film soars. AND THE ANGEL'S SING is classic and SING SING SING will blow the top off your DVD player.

So, THE BENNY GOODMAN STORY, usual biopic with some amazing music. (Want a great double feature? No, not THE GLENN MILLER STORY which is fun, but rather the 1947 NEW ORLEANS with more jazz greats including Louis Armstrong. Now, as Cole Porter would say, you has jazz!)!!!!!!!!

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10 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Great Movie!

Author: mattieboyinaz2003 from Arizona, United States
1 November 2004

I loved this film. Huge Donna Reed fan, and I think this is one of her best films aside from "From Here To Eternity" that she did in the 1950's. Finally a movie about someones life made in the 1950's without June Allyson. The close up's Donna has in this film make you melt, she is and always was even in her 60's breath taking! And this movie shows that. Her and Steve Allen who plays Benny Goodman have great chemistry, and I have read that Donna & Steve look very much like Mr. & Mrs. Goodman but didn't act like them. According to Steve Benny Goodman was brilliant but wasn't a very nice man. And surprisingly this film didn't do as well as the previous "Glen Miller Story". Which I found to be alittle dull. Anyways great film a recommend it to everyone!

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A fine glimpse--if not of the actual life of Mr Goodman--of giants of the Swing era.

Author: jjgregory from United States
30 July 2008

Viewed from the point of view of a jazz fan interested in the history of swing, this movie is a treasure. There are moments all through when some of the true greats in jazz can be at least glimpsed, and some have ongoing parts: Buck Clayton, on trumpet, Teddy Wilson on piano, Gene Krupa, on drums, Lionel Hampton on vibes, Stan Getz on tenor saxophone (he was the farthest to the right on the front row--almost always cut out of the pan-and-scan print shown on TCM, but he has a great solo and closeup in one of the numbers, in the Palomar ballroom section). There are other stars who appear for one scene, but it's fun to see them, even briefly. Ziggy Elman plays his trumpet solo on "And the Angels Sing" glibly verbatim from the famous recording, but rushes, unfortunately. The plot is quite predictable, and there's no clinch at the end, just shining eyes. A must-buy for the jazz sentimentalist--but get the wide-screen version.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Geat Film From 1955

Author: whpratt1 from United States
11 March 2007

Enjoyed this very entertaining film about Benny Goodman performed by Steve Allen who himself was a great composer, piano player and all around actor and late night show host. This was a very compact Hollywood story detailing the life of the great Jazz King of the 30's. Donna Reed, (Alice Hammond) gave a great supporting role as Benny's girlfriend and then his wife. The film was filled with all great jazz musicians, Gene Krupa, Lional Hampton, Harry James and Sammy Davis Sr. along with many other famous jazz musicians. In the 1950's you were able to go to the Roxy Theater, Paramont and Music Hall in New York City and see these great musicians in between the showing of their feature movies and at very low prices, especially at 10 AM for a price of $1.25 to $2.00. This is a great film and the musical selections will keep you glued to this film from beginning to end.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Honor the Centennial of the King of Swing

Author: schell-7 from United States
6 April 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

He was born in the spring of 1909, and beginning with his first hit recording, "Moon Glow" in 1934, he routinely scored a dozen top-ten hits on a yearly basis. Some regard his title, "The King of Swing," as insulting to the African-American tradition that became America's indigenous art form, jazz. It's true that Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Chick Webb, and Fletcher Henderson probably deserved the title, but Benny Goodman was also deserving, and moreover an admirable, seminal representative of the historical period that became known as the "Swing Era." Moreover, in his 1938 Carnegie Hall concert he broke both the "cultural" barrier that insisted on privileging classical European music over "vulgar" American popular forms as well as the color barrier that made it unusual, unlikely, and often impossible for white and black musicians to play on the same stage. Benny was a great musician, as in command of a classical repertory as of jazz, but he was also an ambassador and an example, making the public aware of the music of Billie Holiday (he also introduced Peggy Lee), Lester Young, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson, and the beauties of a music that was a sophisticated American music as well as a highly swinging one.

Forget the plot of this adequate but conventional love story. You'll have to look long and hard to find a movie with this much great American music. And give some thought to the revolution that began in the 1950s and changed the American landscape in the 1960s after the "British invasion." Goodman looked like a boring banker. He wore suits and ties--and he played clarinet! How could he have been adopted by a primarily young generation as a hero if not major pop star? Steve Allen is a bit better looking (and far more clever and articulate) than Goodman, but he won't explain the revolution that made hair, guitars and grubby jeans more worthy of our time, attention, and money, tons of it, than a genteel adult like Goodman. Benny instead introduced us to a guitarist who was black, wore suits, and became known as the "Father of the Jazz guitar," Charlie Christian. Benny Goodman was about sophistication, civility, and competence--and that's exactly what you get, and in abundance, from the musically hip Steve Allen.

Thanks to this movie, I developed a lifelong love of jazz. I'm still swinging, and I'm still left puzzled by the sounds of distorted guitars, of groups that can't perform without vocals, and of drummers who are clueless about the subtle, airborne groove of a 4/4 walking bass, a tight hi-hat, and a shimmering ride cymbal. And I still fail to grasp the entertainment value of performers who wear torn jeans, earrings and tattoos while commanding tens of thousands for a single performance. If you can't hear music unless the beat sounds like an amplified, mechanical drill hammer, you probably won't like this movie.

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