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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Birth Of The Blues (1941)

Set in the 1890s, a young man (Bing Crosby) has a jazz band but no one is interested in hiring him. No one wants to listen to "colored" music. But things start looking up when he adds a girl singer (Mary Martin) to his band. A tedious affair. The title is a misnomer. It's not about the birth of the blues, the blues had already been born. It's about a white band usurping black music and making it palatable to Caucasian audiences. The jazz infused songs aren't really blues anyway. We don't get the authentic blues until Ruby Elzy (who's black) sings St. Louis Woman. Even when Crosby sings Melancholy Baby he sings it as a lullaby rather than blues or jazz. Mary Martin is often lumped with other Broadway legends (like Ethel Merman and Carol Channing) as being "too big" for the movies but as evidenced by this film, she's a decent film actress. It's a screen presence that's lacking, she's just too bland. Directed by Victor Schertzinger. With Brian Donlevy, J. Carrol Naish, Eddie Rochester Anderson, Cecil Kellaway and Barbara Pepper.

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