Will Handy grows up in Memphis with his preacher father and his Aunt Hagar. His father intends for him to use his musical gifts only in church, but he can't stay away from the music of the ... See full summary »
Will Handy grows up in Memphis with his preacher father and his Aunt Hagar. His father intends for him to use his musical gifts only in church, but he can't stay away from the music of the streets and workers. After he writes a theme song for a local politician, Gogo, a speakeasy singer, convinces Will to be her accompanist. Will is estranged from his father for many years while he writes and publishes many blues songs. At last the family is reunited when Gogo brings them to New York to see Will's music played by a symphony orchestra. Written by
Lisa Grable <firstname.lastname@example.org>
W.C. Handy's first successful composition was "Memphis Blues" but, because the producers couldn't obtain the rights to the song, his first successful song was presented in the film as being "Yellow Dog Blues", actually written several years later, after Handy had established himself. See more »
Late in the movie, Gogo runs into Elizabeth and explains she was just passing through St. Louis. The Hanleys live in Memphis. See more »
I saw a portion of this the other day when TCM aired it. Unfortunately, it was on while I was working out at the local health club, so I only got to see what was on while I was there. What I saw was wonderful and I regret that I could not view it in its entirety. The scenes I did see showcased velvet-voiced Nat King Cole; the following young and lovely actresses/songstresses--Ruby Dee, Pearl Bailey, Eartha Kitt (tiny waist!); the one and only Mahalia Jackson; and the truly incomparable Ella Fitzgerald. Every time I hear Ella Fitzgerald sing, I am struck by what an incredible gift she had; her voice was so sweet, so clear, so melodic and just plain lovely.
I was delighted to see this film and the talent showcased there. This is like an Ocean's 11--whether the original Rat Pack or the remake with Clooney et al--in that it's a veritable concentration of celebrity talent all in one film! It's a shame that our history created such divisions between Blacks and Whites that this show had to be produced for Black audiences; it's a fifty year old treasure, period. I'm grateful that TCM aired it.
It was interesting to see the struggle within Handy between "church" and "the world." There is a point where he is remembering his father's declaration that, "There are two kinds of music: the Lord's and the Devil's!" and it makes me think how often we decide what God does or does not want us humans to do with our talents and passions. I could see the beauty that Handy gave the church (in the songs he wrote) and the beauty that Handy gave "the world" with his jazz. It was such a burden to put on Handy that if he wasn't in the church, he was therefore not honoring God, vis-a-vis his talent. It didn't give him much of an option to have any concept of grace, but rather, created an either/or, all or nothing scenario, which is unbalanced at best.
As for the color/b&w argument, I personally think that B&W films allow the viewer to focus on the story itself. Sometimes color can be distracting to a film b/c it's just visual "noise."
Thank God they didn't ruin it with showy musical numbers (choreography and choruses--ugh) but left it to shine with tinkling and stellar jazz.
I would encourage you to watch this film; noteworthy storyline aside, the faces and voices alone are worth it.
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