Loring "Red" Nichols is a cornet-playing country boy who goes to New York in the 1920s full of musical ambition and principles. He gets a job playing in Wil Paradise's band, but quits to ...
See full summary »
An illiterate stooge in a traveling medicine show wanders into a strange town and is picked up on a vagrancy charge. The town's corrupt officials mistake him for the inspector general whom ... See full summary »
Ventriloquist Jerry Morgan has to see another love affair fail. The reason: when the relationship reaches the point when it is time to discuss marriage, his doll Clarence becomes mean and ... See full summary »
Gangster's moll Honey Swanson goes into hiding when her boyfriend is under investigation by the police. Where better to hide than a musical research institute staffed entirely by lonely ... See full summary »
Jacobowsky, a Jewish refugee, flees from the Nazis with an aristocratic, anti-semitic Polish officer trying to get papers to England. Jurgens learns to appreciate Kaye, despite their ... See full summary »
Hypochondriac Danny Weems gets drafted into the army and makes life miserable for his fellow GIs. He's also lovesick when it comes to pretty Mary Morgan, unaware that she's in love with his... See full summary »
Loring "Red" Nichols is a cornet-playing country boy who goes to New York in the 1920s full of musical ambition and principles. He gets a job playing in Wil Paradise's band, but quits to pursue his dream of playing Dixieland jazz. He forms the "Five Pennies" which features his wife, Bobbie, as vocalist. At the peak of his fame, Red and Bobbie's daughter, Dorothy, develops polio. Red quits the music business to move to Los Angeles where the climate is better for Dorothy. As Dorothy becomes a young teen, she learns of her father's musical past, and he is persuaded to open a small nightclub which is failing until some noted names from his past come to help out. Written by
Ray Hamel <email@example.com>
The German 1959 dubbing 5 PENNIES MACHEN MUSIK (literally FIVE PENNIES MAKE MUSIC; released 29 January 1960) carries a very special secret: in the dub Danny Kaye himself sings phonetically in German. All of Kaye's dialogue was dubbed by his regular German voice Georg Thomalla. But Danny Kaye personally went to Berlin to re-dub his vocals of some of the movies' songs into German. It's very obvious that he doesn't understand a word of what he sings at all, but nevertheless does very well. His performance is charismatic, highly sympathetic and works surprisingly fine in spite of his strong accent and pronounciation.
The German lyrics were written by Fritz A. Koeniger, who was one of the most skillful writers for dubbing dialogues in Germany ever. Koeniger also provided the German dialogue book for 5 PENNIES as well as for Kaye's KNOCK ON WOOD, THE COURT JESTER and WHITE CHRISTMAS. The German song titles are:
"Der kleine Penny" ("Five Pennies") "Wiegenlied in Ragtime" ("Lullaby in Ragtime") "Gut' Nacht, schlaf sacht'" ("Good Night - Sleep Tight") "Die Musik faehrt Karussell" ("The Music goes round and around") "Klingeling, klingeling, laeutet's immerzu" ("Jingle Bells").
Sigrid Lagemann, the German voice of Barbara Bel Geddes, also joins in singing together with Danny Kaye in "Wiegenlied in Ragtime" and sings the final reprise of "Der kleine Penny" on her own. All songs Kaye does together with Louis Armstrong remain in the original English (although Armstrong was around at Berlin that time and did a guest appearance in the 1959 film LA PALOMA !). Most likely the German songs were never released commercially on record and are exclusive to the German movie track.
The dubbing was carried out at the renowned company Berliner Synchron GmbH Wenzel Luedecke, which produced the German language versions of almost every Paramount film throughout the 50s and 60s. The dubbing was directed by Volker J. Becker. In early 1960 a German movie magazine published a picture which shows Danny Kaye and his wife Sylvia Fine at the dubbing atelier of Berliner Synchron. There is also a picture of Kaye together with company owner Wenzel Luedecke taken during his recording session. See more »
After Red and Willa have left the club and are traveling home, the cars seen through the rear window of the taxicab are distinctly 1940's to 1950's vehicles which were nonexistent in 1924. See more »
This little gem can be appreciated on two levels. Non-jazz fans who have never heard of Red Nichols will find a fine little "family movie," which despite its 192O's-speakeasy milieu offers up nothing seamier than the observation by Red's wife, Bobbi (Barbara Bel Geddes in a performance of remarkable warmth) that their daughter has come to believe that "breakfast is a cup of coffee and an aspirin." The story of the daughter's attack of polio and her fight to walk again is unflinching and the first-time viewer should pack sufficient Kleenex. Fans of Danny Kaye will find plenty of examples of his trademark clowning, but they'll also find moments of wonderful dramatic and introspective acting.
The most remarkable scene in the movie: a guilty Nichols/Kaye, feeling that his daughter's polio is the direct result of his neglect of her in favor of jazz, promises God that if she survives, he will give up music and devote himself to her care. Sound hokey? Could have been. But the scene where Kaye throws his cornet into the river is absolutely spine-chilling. He stops, tenderly caressing the cornet keys, allowing the happy memories to pass wistfully over his features...then coldly, abruptly, tosses the instrument into the waters below. When Kaye straightens up, he seems to have aged twenty years and gained fifty pounds...a remarkable scene.
The second level on which the film can be appreciated: an introduction to a wonderful musician. Like "The Glenn Miller Story" and "The Benny Goodman Story," "The Five Pennies" makes little attempt to give an accurate portrayal of its subject. Ernest Loring Nichols, from all accounts, was a cool, calculating businessman, nothing like the madcap, freewheeling character played by Danny Kaye. As a cornetist he stood willingly in the shadow of his idol Bix Beiderbecke, whose playing style he strove (with some success) to duplicate. Despite the fact that Bix was the major personal and professional influence on Red, he is mentioned only once, toward the end of the film: "(in those early days) there was Louis (Armstrong), Bix and me--and that was it!"
Biographical inaccuracies aside, the pure tone of the real Nichols' cornet shines through brilliantly, and reaches out to grab the ear of the traditional jazz fan--at least it did mine. When I first saw the film in '81, I was a Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman fan, and knew Nichols only as a bandleader they had played with early on. The movie was a springboard, leading me to search out the albums, and the real biographical details, of the very real Red Nichols.
Incidentally, the film benefited the by-then largely forgotten Nichols greatly: just as the late-5O's dixieland-revival was gathering steam, he landed a Columbia contract, and recorded some wonderful stereo albums of his past hits--and of the music specially written for the film by Silvia Fine (Mrs. Danny Kaye). Though he died in '65 (while in Vegas to play a gig), his music lives on through these wonderful albums --and through the soundtrack on Decca, featuring not only Nichols but Louis Armstrong. Their duets, through placed in fictionalized scenes, stand as a legitimate audio document of two of the earliest and most influential cornetist/trumpeters in history playing together--in glorious, analog stereo. I'll join the others who've commented on this film in wishing that this wonderful soundtrack would be released on CD. (Not outside the realm of possibility: the soundtrack of "Pete Kelly's Blues, from the same time period, has just appeared on CD...so who knows?)
For both traditional jazz fans, and those who appreciate wholesomely uplifting (but NOT goody-goody) film, this movie is a treasure.
25 of 26 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?