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The Five Pennies
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Five Pennies More at IMDbPro »

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24 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Can be appreciated on two levels

10/10
Author: neal-57 from United States
18 September 2001

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.

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20 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Danny Kaye at his best( was he ever anything else)

10/10
Author: simon halfon from Leighton Buzzard, England
26 July 2004

my favorite bit of this film is at the end, I care not how factual it is. I find a lump in my throat every single time I see it and I am usually blubbing like a baby by the end credits. It is a wonderful story of a very talented man and of a great time in musical history, the scenes with 'Satchmo' Louis Armstrong are another particular favorite as he usually steals the scene. The little girl actress put s in a fine and mature performance as 'Red' Nicols's daughter. But as usual Danny Kaye is nothing short of majestic he is perfectly at home miming to Lorne 'Red' Nicols cornet playing. The story is beautiful as is the acting. Don't forget to pack your Kleenex when you watch it though. Excellent family entertainment twenty out of ten......

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21 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

A Powerful and Compelling Work of Art

9/10
Author: PWNYCNY from United States
27 July 2005

Danny Kaye is known for his comic roles; for his laughter, his singing, his dancing, his light-hearted humor. But this movie presents a different Danny Kaye - serious, brooding, consumed with guilt, confronted by really serious problems - and here Danny Kaye shines. This movie is proof that if he had to, Danny Kaye could have been one of the greatest dramatic actors in the history of motion pictures. There is no question about that. In this movie, Kaye puts aside the clowning to play a subdued, moody and introspective character who nevertheless is still likable and worthy of attention. And it works! In the movie he wins over the audience, he wins over his family, he wins over his friends. And who can ever forget the scene with Louis Armstrong? Kaye's character overcomes all obstacles to triumph and to be loved. Only a highly skilled and sensitive actor could have done the job, and in this movie Danny Kaye proved that he had the requisite qualities to transform what could have been little more than a sudsy soap opera into a powerful statement about a man who, along with his family, not only survives but sets an example for others. For this reason, this movie is a powerful and compelling work of art.

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12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

I liked this movie

10/10
Author: jsoneal from Atlanta, Ga
5 July 2002

This is an excellent musical in the old style where the songs either help progress the plot or fit in with the story line. All the music is well done. How can you lose with Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong singing your songs? Just heard that Susan Gordon (she played the daughter at 6) is on broadway in a play after 35 years away from the stage. Enjoy.

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14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Nice Sounds In This Classic Film

6/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
11 May 2006

The Five Pennies Danny Kaye plays Red Nichols, a famous coronet player of yesteryear. I found this story a notch better "fair" and nicely aided by the musical talent of Louis Armstrong. Kaye and Armstrong's duet on "When The Saints Go Marching In" is the highlight of the film.

For a classic movie, the stereo in here is amazing, especially on the songs. In one instance, there are three people singing and their voices all coming out separately on different speakers. Pretty good for just the tape. Now that a DVD has been released, I wonder what the sound on that is like?

The story starts to lag a bit near the end when Kaye starts to feel sorry for himself and this goes on and on as he retires from playing. However, there is a nice, sentimental upbeat ending.

Notes: Kaye and Barbara Bel Geddes, who plays Red's wife "Bobbie," never age in the film even though it spans 15 or more years! It's interesting to see Tuesday Weld as a teenager.

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Danny Kaye - neglected superstar needs re-discovering.

8/10
Author: ianlouisiana from United Kingdom
6 November 2005

When I was growing up Danny Kaye was a huge figure.All over the radio,on records TV and the movies,you couldn't escape from his face or voice. He made successful tours of top rate theatrical venues in the uk,he could sing,dance,act,write comedy routines and song lyrics.His stage act was an explosion of energy and sheer talent.He was-in the ludicrously overused sense of the term-a superstar. In "The Five Pennies" we catch him at the height of his powers as an actor,singer and lyricist(to his wife Sylvia Fine's enchanting tunes) With a strong guest appearance by arguably the finest jazz musician who ever lived and some really clever songs(The Five Pennies,Lullaby in Ragtime and Goodnight all use the same chord sequence). It was a success de cash rather than a success d'estime like most of Kaye's movies,and perhaps that's why his work is largely neglected in critical circles today. As Gloria Swanson said in "Sunset Boulevard,"I'm still big,the movies got smaller"

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Sentimental biography of Dixieland trumpeter Red Nichols

9/10
Author: MikeB-9
26 February 1999

This is the sentimental biography of the life of Ernest Loring (Red) Nichols, a trumpeter/band leader during the 1930's. Danny Kaye does a great job playing Red and Barbara Belgeddes plays his wife, Bobbie. Tuesday Weld plays his daughter, Dorothy. The movie follows Red through his career as a great jazz trumpeter who gives up music for family. A must see for Danny Kaye and Big Band fans. Some of the members of Red's "Five Pennies", as his band was known, were Glenn Miller and Jimmy Dorsey. Louis Armstrong puts on a stellar musical performance as himself. Red Nichols does the trumpet solos. Great music, good family viewing.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

This is what classics are made of...

Author: Jessica (babytweek1@aol.com) from Wilmington, Delaware
30 January 2000

I'm 15 years old and when I saw this movie for the first time about a year ago, I feel in love with it. It is the perfect combo of comedy, romance, and drama. I am a writer and I always add a little of all of those emotions into my stories because it makes it more believeable and realistic as well as more touching. I am now a Danny Kaye fan. He is a wonderful actor and singer. Whenever I see him on while flipping the channels, I will stop and watch. I am also now a fan of classic films of the 1930s and beyond.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

10 stars for the music burned in my head since the 60ies...

10/10
Author: MarjaSofia from Finland
6 February 2005

... but I could never see the movie yet. Still, it partly saved my life when I was dying of a very bad pneumonia and was floating in between the two worlds. I didn't yet understand English, but the soundtrack of The Five Pennies played on the vinyl record (don't ask me how my Finnish parents got to possess it) went through my conscience and kept me on the living side. I can still sing one voice of the lullaby hearing Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong singing the other voices in my head. I'm lucky to be able to hear them without any technical device.

Now, by a coincidence I fall on this movie I never saw - so important in my life - on VHS / NTSC in Amazon. I live in Europe... No way being able to see it. Do you really mean that there's no DVD of it yet ? I seem to be not the only one wishing for it.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Now available on DVD!

10/10
Author: Eric Skeen from South Africa
3 January 2006

I first watched this movie as a youngster of about 10 years of age, and even at that tender age it filled me with great pleasure. I subsequently bought the LP and played it often enough - enough to start wearing out my favourite tracks. Every so often I used to browse various movie catalogues, and suddenly I froze: The movie would be released in DVD format mid-December 2005! I "pre-ordered" my copy, patiently waited for it to arrive, and then Viola! My movie arrived, I watched it, wiped away a tear or two, enjoyed some foot-stomping music and watched true human drama being enacted. This movie is a must, especially for fans of Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong. The cornet is played by the "real" Red Nichols, and is absolutely brilliant! This movie will be enjoyed by all ages and is good, clean wholesome fun, something which is so lacking in most of today's movies. Add it to your collection, you cannot afford to miss this one!

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