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 ...
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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 <email@example.com>
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 »
Early in film, a man tells Handy to meet him "at the corner of Beale and Jackson at 4:00" to give him a job. Beale Street and Jackson Avenue do not intersect. Jackson is not straight, but it's more than a mile between them at their closest point. See more »
I found the father-son estrangement contrived along conventional religion vs the devil lines, but moving nonetheless. I had forgotten what a good piano player Nat Cole was. Ertha Kitt is the heart of the film. She acts as she sings -- biting, precise, and all-knowing. I think the great Pearl Bailey is wasted here -- wonderful as the Aunt, but we only hear her singing a snippet of the title song. Cab Calloway was also much more talented than permitted to be here. I saw him as "Sportin' Live" in the post-WW II revival of "Porgy and Bess." We get a too brief taste of the great clarinet player, Barney Bigard, and an anachronistic appearance by Ella Fitzgerald singing "Beale St. Blues." The film provides a good definition of the blues as an authentic American musical and poetic form. This one, almost 50 years old now, has aged well. It makes one regret that more African-American based and performed films were not made when these great stars were available. Thanks again, TCM!
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