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Pete Kelly's Blues (1955)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Music | 31 July 1955 (USA)
In 1927, a Kansas City, Missouri cornet player and his band perform nightly at a seedy speakeasy until a racketeer tries to extort them in exchange for protection.

Director:

Jack Webb
Reviews
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jack Webb ... Pete Kelly
Janet Leigh ... Ivy Conrad
Edmond O'Brien ... Fran McCarg
Peggy Lee ... Rose Hopkins
Andy Devine ... George Tenell
Lee Marvin ... Al Gannaway
Ella Fitzgerald ... Maggie Jackson
Martin Milner ... Joey Firestone
Than Wyenn Than Wyenn ... Rudy Shulak
Herbert Ellis Herbert Ellis ... Bedido (as Herb Ellis)
John Dennis ... Guy Bettenhouser
Jayne Mansfield ... Cigarette Girl
Mort Marshall ... Cootie Jacobs
Moe Schneider Moe Schneider ... Trombonist (Big 7)
George Van Eps George Van Eps ... Guitarist (Big 7)
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Storyline

In 1927 Kansas City Pete Kelly and his jazz band play nightly at a speakeasy. A local gangster starts to move in on them and when their drummer is killed Kelly gives in, even though this also means taking the thug's alcoholic girl as a singer. Kelly soon realises he has made a big mistake selling out in this way and that rich girl Ivy is now the only decent thing in his life. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

It was the jazz-mad wide open '20s-great music, bad booze-and a bullet if you didn't jump for the mob. This is the story of a man who wouldn't jump. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Music

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film takes place from 1919 to 1927. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
New Orleans Funeral Mourner: Ashes to ashes, Dust to dust, If the women don't get you, The whiskey must.
See more »

Crazy Credits

"In the screenplay by Richard L. Breen" appears before the film's title. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Back for Christmas (1956) See more »

Soundtracks

Bye Bye Blackbird
(uncredited)
Music by Ray Henderson
Lyrics by Mort Dixon
Sung by Martin Milner, Lee Marvin & other cast members
See more »

User Reviews

17 Cherry Street, Kansas City
1 December 2008 | by LechuguillaSee all my reviews

"If you're looking for a new way to grow old, this is the place to come, 17 Cherry Street, Kansas City ...". So says Pete Kelly, in VO, near the film's beginning. The place is a roaring twenties' speakeasy, a "gin bin", where the booze flows, where customers express their angst and sometimes get in a fight, and where Pete Kelly (Jack Webb) plays cornet and manages a jazz band.

"Pete Kelly's Blues" is a moody film, downbeat in tone. Many scenes take place in dark interiors. And it rains a lot. Everyone in the film has problems. Kelly's main problem is Fran McCarg (Edmond O'Brien), a local mobster, trying to take over the city's bands at reduced wages for band members. Most of the film's plot has Pete Kelly fighting McCarg, or submitting to his demands, to the consternation of Kelly's fellow band members.

Not surprisingly, the film features lots of blues music and jazz numbers throughout. Ella Fitzgerald sings "Hard Hearted Hannah". And Peggy Lee sings several numbers. Both women are terrific, but I could have wished that Peggy Lee had sung better known era songs.

One thing I didn't like about the script is the setup. After an evocative but largely irrelevant funeral prologue, the story jumps right in to Pete Kelly's problems at the speakeasy; no buildup at all; no back-story of any kind.

Another problem is Webb's acting. He gives his best Joe Friday imitation, which would have been great for "Dragnet", but inappropriate here. Webb is stiff, seems uncomfortable in the role and rather self-conscious. I suspect this miscasting has been apparent to most everyone for a very long time. It's just so glaring.

This film is a bit of nostalgia. It's not real good. But it's good enough for a one time viewing for those interested in blues and jazz music, and for anyone interested in the roaring twenties.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 July 1955 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Pete Kelly's Blues See more »

Filming Locations:

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Mark VII Ltd. See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (RCA Sound Recording) (magnetic prints)| Mono (RCA Sound Recording) (optical prints)

Color:

Color (WarnerColor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See full technical specs »

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