Newest Reviews
Black Bear
Don't Cry, Pretty Girls!
Me You Madness
Reckoning, The
Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies
For the Sake of Vicious
Hell Bent
Straight Shooting
Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon
Man They Could Not Hang, The
Final Days
Frightened City, The
Sequin in a Blue Room
Common Crime, A
Into the Labyrinth
Power, The
Wake of Death
Night Orchid
Iron Mask, The
Personal History of David Copperfield, The
Dove, The
Defending Your Life
Champagne Murders, The
He Dreams of Giants
Lost in America
Take Back
Banishing, The
Drifters, The
Gushing Prayer
Escape from Coral Cove
Swan Princess, The
Newest Articles
3 from 1950s Hollyweird: Dr. T, Mankind and Plan 9
Meiko Kaji's Girl Gangs: Stray Cat Rock on Arrow
Having a Wild Weekend: Catch Us If You Can on Blu-ray
The Drifters: Star Lucie Bourdeu Interview
Meiko Kaji Behind Bars: Female Prisoner Scorpion on Arrow
The Horror of the Soviets: Viy on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Tarka the Otter and The Belstone Fox
Network Double Bills: All Night Long and Ballad in Blue
Chew Him Up and Spit Him Out: Romeo is Bleeding on Blu-ray
British Body Snatchers: They Came from Beyond Space on Blu-ray
Bzzzt: Pulse on Blu-ray
The Tombs Will Be Their Cities: Demons and Demons 2 on Arrow
Somebody Killed Her Husband: Charade on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Maroc 7 and Invasion
Network Double Bills: The Best of Benny Hill and The Likely Lads
Network Double Bills: Some Girls Do and Deadlier Than the Male
Absolutely Bananas: Link on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Hawk the Slayer and The Medusa Touch
The Price of Plague: The Masque of the Red Death on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Seance on a Wet Afternoon and Ring of Spies
Chaney Chillers: Inner Sanctum Mysteries - The Complete Film Series on Blu-ray
Adelphi Extras: Stars in Your Eyes on Blu-ray
Toons for the Heads: Fantastic Planet and Adult Animation
Nature Girl: The New World on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Perfect Friday and Robbery
  Birth of the Blues Can White Men Play The Blues?
Year: 1941
Director: Victor Schertzinger
Stars: Bing Crosby, Mary Martin, Brian Donlevy, Carolyn Lee, Eddie Anderson, J. Carrol Naish, Warren Hymer, Horace McMahon, Ruby Elzy, Jack Teagarden, Danny Beck, Harry Barris, Perry Botkin Sr, Minor Watson, Barbara Pepper, Cecil Kellaway
Genre: MusicalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: When Jeff Lambert (Bing Crosby) was a boy in 1890s New Orleans he dutifully took clarinet lessons as ordered by his classical musician father, but it was not classical music that he liked to perform. When his father was looking the other way, Jeff would head off to Basin Street to be with the jazz crowd, joining in, much to their surprise. However when his father tracked him down with the help of manservant Louey (Eddie Anderson), Jeff was scolded severely, and dragged back to his practice. Yet the love of jazz never left him, and when he grew up he started a white band of musicians, against the popular style...

Birth of the Blues has a reputation of whitewashing history, literally, by making it look as if jazz was invented by the white community of America. However, this is not entirely fair as yes, there are more white cast members than black, but the film makes clear where the music originated and in no way has, say, Bing Crosby creating jazz and ignoring the black pioneers of the medium. This was a pet project of Crosby's, a way to illustrate where he was coming from as a fan of the music who loved it so much that he adopted it for himself and those large sections of white America who were receptive to his way with a tune.

It's true that in the final montage of jazz pioneers there are more white faces than black, but the film is careful to have the fictionalised Jeff and his band be validated by those who came up with the style in the first place. Jeff is looking for a cornet player, and following a lead he ends up at the local jailhouse where he has heard that one has recently been incarcerated. Now, the name Brian Donlevy doesn't exactly conjure up the spirit of jazz, but that's who is in the role of the cornet player, and one can only assume he was miming his way through the numbers.

Donlevy is really there as a love rival for Crosby's Jeff when, through much contrivance, Jeff allows visiting aspiring singer Betty Lou (Mary Martin, the mother of Larry Hagman in real life) and her five-year-old aunt Phoebe (outspoken moppet Carolyn Lee) to share the boarding house he stays at: he gives up his room for them. The narrative is flimsy to say the least, only arranged with these clich├ęs as a framing for the musical passages, but Crosby and Martin enjoy a certain charm - you could always rely on Der Bingle for easy going charisma.

And here he is obviously relishing the musical side of his act, not simply crooning for Middle America but championing the style he grew up singing, essentially in the hope that they would be respected and welcomed by those who might have dismissed them. The jazz episodes are the best part of the film, and all the trials Jeff's band have to go through to be heard are distractions; bizarrely, the story transforms into a criminal undergound thriller when Jeff and company catch on, make a lot of money for nightclub owner Blackie (J. Carrol Naish) then wish to move forward. It's as if the producers appreciated Bing's love for the music, but couldn't settle for the right vehicle for it: even the comic relief Anderson gets placed in tragic jeopardy so the band can play him out of his coma! Birth of the Blues is interesting, but there are all sorts of reasons why it's a bit of a muddle.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


This review has been viewed 4667 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (3)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
  Sdfadf Rtfgsdf
Stately Wayne Manor


Last Updated: