Friday, May 25, 2012


If you've seen one classic-era film about jazz bands, or indeed about any kind of musicians, then nothing about this movie will surprise you in the least.  A young man with talent is discovered in unlikely circumstances, gets his big break, falls in love, gets cocky and falls in with the wrong element, loses his choice job and his girl only to regain his humility and be redeemed at the end when he gets his job and girl back.  Here, James Cardwell is the young man, a working-class Chicago guy who supports his widowed mom and family, and plays killer trombone in his spare time.  His younger brother tricks Benny Goodman (playing himself) into listening to Cardwell play, and he is immediately offered a job with the band.  Lynn Bari is the girl singer who has apparently gone through most of the men in the band, but she's still a good sort, though her manager (Allen Joslyn) eggs her on to want more money and better billing.  Cardwell plays well, and at his first gig, falls for the young Linda Darnell, who becomes something of a groupie, but Cardwell quickly gets too big for his britches and, pushed by Joslyn, leaves Goodman, taking Bari and the entire band with him to front his own band.  When that enterprise fails, everyone goes back to Goodman except Cardwell, who has too much pride.  Months later, when Goodman comes through Chicago again, will Cardwell be humble enough to take his old job back? 

This a typical big studio B-film with the unusual selling point of Goodman and his band, who perform several numbers which are the highlights of the movie.  No big hits are played, though the vocal novelty "Hey Bub, Let’s Have a Ball" is fun.  Goodman isn’t much of an actor, and neither is Cardwell.  Both female leads are fine (though they look an awful lot alike), as is Jack Oakie as the band manager, who has a dream of someday playing trombone in the band; a running gag involves Oakie putting bespectacled first trombonist John Campbell on a carrot diet so his eyesight will improve and he’ll be drafted, giving Oakie a chance in the band.  Child star Dickie Moore, who was almost 20 by now, has a small role as a military cadet.  Every cliché in the book is present here, but it's all handled fairly well.  [TCM]

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