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In 1927 Kansas City Pete Kelly and his jazz band play nightly at a speakeasy. A local gangster starts to move in on them and when their drummer is killed Kelly gives in, even though this also means taking the thug's alcoholic girl as a singer. Kelly soon realises he has made a big mistake selling out in this way and that rich girl Ivy is now the only decent thing in his life. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
"Pete Kelly's Blues" gave Jack Webb a chance to direct and star in this film that compliments his close, tight, factual emphasis on the characters and the story. It's a no-nonsense film that combines some good musical moments with the times of the roaring 20's, when the gangs were determined to make money in every venture, or cause the venture to cease to exist. Such is the situation for Pete Kelly and his jazz band.
Kelly, played by Webb, enjoys the fact that his band can pretty much come and go as they see fit, perform, collect their fees, and move on to other clubs, other towns. They are good at what they do, and a local gangster, played to the hilt by Edmond O'Brien, sees a chance to move in. He tells Kelly that the band must allow his new girl a chance to perform, plus give him a sizable cut of their appearance money. The singer, played by Peggy Lee, just wants to get a start in show business, and O'Brien wants to control her start on a career. The film moves to an eventual expected climax, but the ending for Peggy Lee is not a happy one.
The cast included Janet Leigh, Andy Devine, Lee Marvin (a good guy role), and Ella Fitzgerald, who contributed some moving tunes in her own special style. Peggy Lee did garner an Oscar for best supporting actress, and it was deserved.
A film piece that deserves more than one chance viewing.
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