This revue presents its numbers around the orchestra leader Paul Whiteman, besides that it shows in it's final number that the European popular music are the roots of American popular music...
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Oswald the Rabbit puts on a concert for a group of barn animals - but when they discover that he's miming to a record of his idol, Paul Whiteman - they boo and shun him. Oswald wanders off ... See full summary »
Oswald is riding on a camel; he defeats an attacking lion, using the camel's humps as cannonballs. In Cairo, he meets a queen and sings her his theme song; the sphinx and a couple pyramids join in, but the king isn't as happy.
This revue presents its numbers around the orchestra leader Paul Whiteman, besides that it shows in it's final number that the European popular music are the roots of American popular music, called Jazz.Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
Paul Whiteman's dance double was Paul Small (1909-1954), an acrobatic dancer and long-time Whiteman imitator, not to be confused with the singer of the same name. See more »
You don't mean to tell me that you are well-versed in the intricacies of the art of Terpsichore?
No, but I can dance.
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Restored in 2016 with a running time of 99 minutes. This version replicates the scene continuity of the 1930 release version, including about a minute of exit music. A small amount of footage was not found and is covered by still photographs. This is the version that played at the Museum of Modern Art and Film Forum in 2016, and was released by the Criterion Collection on Blu-Ray and DVD in 2018. See more »
A masterpiece! One of the very best early musicals
Universal spent over a year making this movie -- Paul Whiteman's band set forth for Hollywood on a chartered train called the "Old Gold Special" in January 1929 (Old Gold Cigarettes sponsored his CBS radio program) and arrived, ready to work, only to find that no one at Universal had bothered to come up with a script. Seven months later he headed himself and his band back to New York after telling the "suits" at Universal he wasn't coming back until there was a finished script and the film was ready to shoot. During the stand-down Whiteman lost the best musician he ever had, Bix Beiderbecke, to Bix's chronic alcoholism, and Universal lost the originally assigned director, Paul Fejos, when he had a nervous breakdown while shooting another film. By the time Whiteman returned, the Great Depression had hit, the Zeitgeist had changed and the American people weren't in the mood for lavish musicals anymore. So "King of Jazz" became a legendary box-office flop.
It's a fate the movie didn't deserve: though there are a few scenes in which director John Murray Anderson falls back on the typical long-shots of chorus lines that make them look like ants on a wedding cake, for the most part his direction is vividly imaginative, fully the equal of what Busby Berkeley was doing on his first film, "Whoopee," another all-color musical being filmed at the same time. Anderson gives us numbers from overhead, from side angles, and uses the swooping camera movements of the so-called "'Broadway' Crane" (invented by cinematographer Hal Mohr and director Paul Fejos for Universal's 1929 film of the hit musical "Broadway") to deliver dazzling images and splendors to delight the eye and avoid the static quality of many of the early musicals. Anderson had come to Hollywood from his experience directing most of the Ziegfeld Follies on stage and running an acting school that trained Bette Davis and Lucille Ball, and for this film he was given virtually unprecedented authority. "King of Jazz" should have been his ticket to a major film career, but instead after its failure he retreated to the stage and only worked on two more films, the 1944 Esther Williams vehicle "Bathing Beauty" (for which he staged the incredible final number, often misattributed to Berkeley!) and Cecil B. DeMille's circus drama "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1953). It's a crime against culture that Anderson wasn't given the job of directing "The Great Ziegfeld" (1936), since he knew Ziegfeld's style (indeed, had helped create it) and he knew how to make a movie; an Anderson-directed "Great Ziegfeld" could have been a masterpiece instead of the ponderous bore (redeemed only by the acting of William Powell and Myrna Loy) MGM and hack director Robert Z. Leonard actually gave us.
"King of Jazz" was one of the handful of revues (a Broadway term for a musical with no plot) filmed in 1929 and 1930, including MGM's "Hollywood Revue of 1929," Warner Bros.' "The Show of Shows," Fox's "Fox Movietone Follies of 1929," and Paramount's "Paramount on Parade." (There was also a British version, "Elstree Calling," in which the framing scenes showing actor Gordon Harker tuning in variety performers on an early TV were directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who didn't think the assignment was important enough to put the film on his official résumé.) But "King of Jazz" is better than all of them, even though Universal's list of contract players was far less illustrious than those of their major-studio competitors (the biggest "names" in this movie who weren't part of Whiteman's organization were Laura LaPlante and John Boles). It helps that the comedy scenes between the big musical numbers are kept to a minimum, and are short, genuinely funny and surprisingly racy for a 1930 film. The only thing that badly dates this movie (and led me to rate it 9 instead of 10) are the unfunny and badly dated novelty songs, including "Oh, How I'd Love to Own a Fish Store," "Has Anybody Here Seen Nellie?" and Wilbur Hall's performance of "Stars and Stripes Forever" on a bicycle pump.
"King of Jazz" is a towering musical masterpiece, rivaled only by "Whoopee" at the top of the heap for pre-"42nd Street" musicals. (The Lubitsch and Mamoulian films for Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald are in a separate category altogether.) The film is a tribute to the genius of its director, John Murray Anderson, though the one Academy Award it won was for its art director, Herman Rosse, probably the first individual ever to win an Oscar for an all-color film. "King of Jazz" is a music that will dazzle you with spectacular moment after spectacular moment, including the "Rhapsody in Blue" sequence that, along with the "New York Rhapsody" sequence in the 1931 film "Delicious," does more justice to George Gershwin's music than any sequence using it until the 1951 ballet in "An American in Paris."
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