Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Overlooked Movies -- The Benny Goodman Story

If you're looking for a great story or great acting, look somewhere else. Steve Allen was a man of many talents, but acting wasn't one of them. Donna Reed's not bad, but she doesn't have a lot to do. Nobody does, really, and the story of Goodman's life as told here is pretty boring. The reality was probably more interesting, but the movie's not interested in the reality. It's your basic sappy love story.

So what does it have going for it? The music, of course, and there's some great music and plenty of it. I saw this first when I was a kid playing clarinet in a high school band, and like Allen I was a nerdy guy with glasses (still am, now that I think about it). To think that a guy like that could play a clarinet the way Goodman could was a wonderful thing. Two famous concerts are represented in the movie, including the climactic one at Carnegie Hall in 1938. If you don't watch the movie, check out the CD of that concert. Great stuff.

Some famous jazz musicians show up as themselves in the film: Harry James, Kid Ory, Gene Krupa, and others. So it's a historical document, too.


pattinase (abbott) said...

My first comment disappeared. Guess I got the words below wrong.
Steve Allen is no Jimmy Stewart. Not profound but that's what I said last time.

Todd Mason said...

At least faking the clarinet isn't quite as taxing as faking the trombone. The music is all, indeed.

Anonymous said...

No, Steve was no actor. My favorite role of his (naturally) was another you should do on one of these movie Tuesdays: the semi-classic College Confiddential with the inimitable Mamie Van Doren, Rocky Marciano, Conway Twitty and Elisha Cook, Jr. plus Earl Wilson, Sheilah Graham & James Bacon as themselves.

The one thing that stands out for me from the Goodman movie, other than just how wooden Steve was, is Gene Krupa.


Ron Scheer said...

Sounds like this one and THE EDDIE DUCHIN story would make a good double bill.