In 'Round Midnight, real-life jazz legend Dexter Gordon brilliantly portrays the fictional tenor sax player Dale Turner, a musician slowly losing the battle with alcoholism, estranged from his family, and hanging on by a thread in the 1950's New York jazz world. Dale gets an offer to play in Paris, where, like many other black American musicians at the time, he enjoys a respect for his humanity that is not based upon the color of his skin. A Parisian man who is obsessed with Turner's music befriends him and attempts to save Turner from himself. Although for Dale the damage is already done, his poignant relationship with the man and his young daughter re-kindles his spirit and his music as the end draws near.Written by
The character of Francis Borler is based on Francis Paudras, who died in 1997. The character of Dale Turner is a combination of real-life jazzmen Bud Powell and Lester Young. The real-life friendship between Paudras and Bud Powell has been the subject of several books. See more »
Although the film takes place in the 50s, one shot of New York near the end shows several mid 1980s Chevrolet Caprice Taxis, along with some cars from the late 1960s and 1970s. See more »
Berangere... that's a big name for a little girl.
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In the Existentialist '50s, bebop jazz expanded beyond Manhattan and became all the rage in Paris. French intellectuals such as Sartre (in his pro-American hotdogs-and-bourbon phase) applied their knowledge to the music of poorly-educated African-Americans and discovered that this too, like the cinema of Jerry Lewis, was something they could like about America.
Director/scenarist Bertrand Tavernier, a veteran of the St. Germain des Pres scene, crafted "Round Midnight" as a nostalgic tribute to a now-vanished European musical scene. (The Blue Note Club is a studio set, the original having been pulled down). Melding the life stories of pianist Bud Powell and sax man Lester Young into a memorable character called Dale Turner, Tavernier benefited from the fortunate casting of real-life musician Dexter Gordon to play this role.
Gordon spent much of his working life in Copenhagen and in 1963 made a record with Powell in Paris. The two were part of a large group of black American jazzmen who gigged across Western Europe as the 52nd Street scene back home began to wane. Essentially, Gordon played himself, for which he deservedly received an Oscar nomination on his first try.
Musicians are not necessarily actors, but "Round Midnight" is bolstered by strong performances from a number of U.S. and French jazz players paying tribute to their own. As pleasant as the film's musical score is, "Round Midnight" succeeds because the cast of music professionals shows what they can do away from the bandstand.
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