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Birth of the Blues (1941)

Approved | | Music | 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 »
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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. 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:

1941's Happiest Blessed Event! See more »

Genres:

Music

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 November 1941 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sinfonia Bárbara See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

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

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor sequence)| Black and White

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Though the movie is in black and white, in one scene, when Bing Crosby is singing "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" in a movie theater, a slide show being projected behind him is in full color, though Bing is still in black and white. See more »


Soundtracks

Waiting at the Church
(uncredited)
Music by Henry E. Pether
Lyrics by Fred W. Leigh
Performed by Mary Martin
See more »

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User Reviews

Not What I Had Expected
5 February 2005 | by LechuguillaSee all my reviews

In this musical comedy set in New Orleans in the 1890's, a clarinet player with a passion for jazz, played by Bing Crosby, organizes a band of white musicians in an effort to bring this "blue music" to the white café society of New Orleans, during an era when whites looked down on jazz as a product of Black people.

The film's screenplay is not very good. Characters are poorly defined. They exist only to further the contrived plot. For a musical, there's too much dialogue, composed largely of supposedly humorous one liners. That may have worked in 1941. But times change. Sixty years after the film, the script now seems dismissive of serious social concerns, and is therefore not funny.

Meanwhile, the shallow plot dilutes the impact of the film's music. Blues numbers include "Melancholy Baby", "Memphis Blues", and several others. But they are uninspired, and seem tangential to the talky script. The only musical number I found even faintly memorable was "St. Louis Blues", performed with passion by diva Ruby Elzy.

One thing I did find interesting was the inclusion of a couple of bit part actors who would later become well known. Mantan Moreland (from the Charlie Chan series) shows up toward the beginning as a trumpet player. And Barbara Pepper (as Doris Ziffel from "Green Acres") shows up off and on in the film as a nightclub hussy.

Given the title, I was expecting a blues extravaganza, not a talk fest. Even so, "Birth Of The Blues" might have some value given its historical subject matter. And it probably would be a good film for fans of Bing Crosby, for whom the film functions as a cinematic vehicle.


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