6.4/10
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13 user 5 critic

Birth of the Blues (1941)

Passed | | History, Music, Romance | 7 November 1941 (USA)
Jeff grows up near Basin Street in New Orleans, playing his clarinet with the dock workers. He puts together a band, the Basin Street Hot-Shots, which includes a cornet player, Memphis. ... See full summary »

Writers:

Harry Tugend (story), Harry Tugend | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Bing Crosby ... Jeff Lambert
Mary Martin ... Betty Lou Cobb
Brian Donlevy ... Memphis
Carolyn Lee ... Aunt Phoebe Cobb
Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson ... Louey (as Rochester)
J. Carrol Naish ... Blackie
Warren Hymer ... Limpy
Horace McMahon ... Wolf (as Horace MacMahon)
Ruby Elzy Ruby Elzy ... Ruby
Jack Teagarden ... Pepper
Danny Beck Danny Beck ... Deek
Harry Barris ... Suds
Perry Botkin Sr. ... Leo (as Perry Botkin)
Minor Watson ... Henri Lambert
Harry Rosenthal Harry Rosenthal ... Piano Player
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Storyline

Jeff grows up near Basin Street in New Orleans, playing his clarinet with the dock workers. He puts together a band, the Basin Street Hot-Shots, which includes a cornet player, Memphis. They struggle to get their jazz music accepted by the cafe society of the city. Betty Lou joins their band as a singer and gets Louie to show her how to do scat singing. Memphis and Jeff both fall in love with Betty Lou. Written by Lisa Grable <grable@unity.ncsu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Heres the Story of How the Blues were Born...in this Picture dedicated to pioneers of gay old New Orleans and Memphis - one of Bing Crosby's best! (print ad - Lubbock Morning Avalanche - Tech Theatre - Lubbock, Texas - September 20, 1944) See more »

Genres:

History | Music | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on September 13, 1943 with Bing Crosby reprising his film role. See more »


Soundtracks

At a Georgia Camp Meeting
(uncredited)
Music by Kerry Mills
Performed by band on levee
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User Reviews

 
The Crooner, The Canary, and the Slide Trombone.
7 July 2004 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Birth of the Blues was a labor of love for Bing Crosby and it showed. Coming up with Paul Whiteman, Bing met and worked with some of the greatest musicians in history. He enjoyed their company, he enjoyed working with them, just couldn't get enough. The plot is a fictionalization of the creation of the first all white jazz combo, the Original Dixieland Band.

This is Mary Martin's second of two films she did with Crosby and at the same time this was being shot, she was doubling as the girl singer on his Kraft Music Hall. As in Rhythm on the River, for once he's given a leading lady who matches him vocally. Why movie audiences didn't take to her is still a mystery.

Brian Donlevy was at the height of his career where he usually played villains. He's no villain here, but he's Bing's rival for Mary Martin. He plays a hot cornet player named Memphis and I do love the scene where Crosby's band engages in an impromptu jam session on the street in front of the new Orleans Jail where Donlevy is residing and Crosby's trying to get him out. In a radio broadcast dramatization of this film, Phil Harris played Donlevy's part and Dinah Shore played the Mary Martin role.

Usually Crosby's films have original material written for them, this is an exception. A whole lot of old standards are used, the only original song for Birth of the Blues is The Waiter and The Porter and The Upstairs Maid, written by Bing's good pal Johnny Mercer. It's nice, catchy, novelty number with the waiter and upstairs maid done by Crosby and Martin. The porter is jazz trombone great Jack Teagarden who's really into the spirit of the thing.

One of the standards is Wait Till The Sun Shines Nellie, this time done with a jazz inflection. Crosby and Martin duet it and it became a big seller Decca recording.

J. Carroll Naish plays a good gangster villain assisted by henchmen Horace McMahon and Warren Hymer. Hymer had a specialty in playing schlemiel henchmen and this is a typical Warren Hymer part.

Eddie Anderson is in the film, playing a Rochester like part for Bing Crosby as he did for Jack Benny. In many ways he played the typical servile black person and some would say he does it here. Personally I found his Rochester character very good, he often got the best of Jack Benny. He acquits himself well here.

Ruby Elzy plays Anderson's wife and she gets a good vocal opportunity to sing St. Louis Blues as Anderson is unconscious and the band thinks he's checking out.

No one should pass on an opportunity to see Bing and Mary Martin together.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 November 1941 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Birth of the Blues See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$857,283 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor sequence)| Black and White

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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