Any love for King of Jazz (1930)?

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by BroJB, Jan 13, 2020.

  1. BroJB

    BroJB Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Colorado
    I'm utterly obsessed with King of Jazz, a 1930 variety musical film featuring The Paul White man Orchestra.

    Here's why:

    It's extraordinarily beautiful. One of the first color films, it's awash in rich turquoise and mind-blowing art deco design.

    It's loaded with musical and cultural history, including:

    * Early film appearances of musical Titans Bing Crosby, Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti.

    * The first ever appearance of Woody Woodpecker!

    * The original Rockettes - before they were even the Rockettes.

    * A beautiful performance of Rhapsody in Blue by the Whiteman orchestra - the orchestra the piece was actually created for by Gershwin.

    It's also filled with all kinds of early special effects, out there performers (check out the rubber legged dancer in this clip) and great staging. It bounces from high class to Vaudeville in the blink of an eye and is never less than compelling.

    Criterion recently released a remastered version that is simply gorgeous. Have a look:

     
  2. antoniod

    antoniod Forum Resident

    I like the green leggings!
     
  3. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    I so wanted to get the Music Box theater in Chicago to show this one. It's the perfect vintage theater for this film.

    Why did it bomb when it came out? Paul Whiteman was insanely popular at the time.
     
  4. BroJB

    BroJB Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Colorado
    I've read that it was timing - it hit just as the Depression intensified and people put off going to the movies.

    But yeah, it is surprising, particularly considering how entertaining it is in a "something for everone" way.
     
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  5. Arthur Pewty

    Arthur Pewty Well-Known Member

    I’m a recent convert to this wonderful, audacious & utterly gorgeous movie. Endlessly inventive, and a youthful Bing Crosby to boot!
     
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  6. Claus LH

    Claus LH Forum Resident

    Amazing film, a cross-roads of wild design, forgotten performances and early sound film challenges. A true time capsule of a moment, both in entertainment- and film history. Criterion did themselves proud by picking up this one.
     
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  7. BroJB

    BroJB Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Colorado
    And it's one of those films that, when you follow the bread crumbs, opens up so much of 20th century culture.

    For example, comic Jack White does a bizarre sketch with the band about wanting to own a fish store. But it's almost incomprehensible, as it's drenched in inside jokes between White and the musicians, and proto-hipster lingo. Turns out, White was an influence on folks like Lord Buckley who was a massive influence on the Beats. So you're witnessing a cultural ground zero moment.

    You've got two German sisters who must have been the inspiration for Liza Minelli's character in Cabaret. They are the Weimar Republic in human form:

    [​IMG]

    Also, much of the music was arranged by Ferde Grofé who, the next year, would go on to compose Grand Canyon Suite.

    Really, the film is just loaded with fascinating bits of historical connections.
     
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  8. BroJB

    BroJB Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Colorado
    The film cost $2 million to make in 1930. That's more than $38 million in today's dollars.

    All for a film shot on a soundstage. That tells you exactly how costly and elaborate the process was. And you see every penny on the screen.
     
  9. mBen989

    mBen989 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scranton, PA
    I watched this the last time it was on and I enjoyed this relic of the early sound era, even if "Rhapsody in Blue" looks turquoise due to two-strip Technicolor.

    Oh, and given the state of early sound recording, Whiteman was able to overrule the Universal executives and had the music pre-recorded for playback on the set.
     
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  10. Crimson jon

    Crimson jon Forum Resident

    Location:
    Houston
    This is the most white bread/appropriation thing I have ever seen. Glad you enjoy it though we all need something to be entertained by.
     
  11. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    I'm sorry, but Rhapsody in Turquoise just doesn't have the same appeal.
     
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  12. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    Paul Whiteman was known as the King of Jazz, and no one as yet has come near carrying that title with more certainty and dignity. - Duke Ellington

    You may call it "appropriation" but it was impossible for him to employ Black musicians and earn a living touring at the time. I'm sure W.C. Handy didn't mind the royalties from Whiteman's recording of St Louis Blues.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020
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  13. BroJB

    BroJB Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Colorado
    Whiteman hired Fletcher Henderson as an arranger when it was unheard of for a white band to have a black arranger. He also hired black arrangers Don Redman and William Grant Still, and hired Native American singer Mildred Bailey.

    He also pointedly ends the film with a young black child sitting on his lap - which was essentially a middle finger to the studio who weren't keen on him having black musicians on screen.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020
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  14. BroJB

    BroJB Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Colorado
    It seems like a massive reach - even from a woke 2020 perspective - to call Rhapsody in Blue an act of cultural appropriation.
     
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  15. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    No, on the other hand it was an act of cruelty to clarinet players. "Here's this thing that only one clarinet player on Earth can do- a glissando." "Great! I'll put it in my most popular composition! Muwahhah!!"
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020
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  16. smilin ed

    smilin ed Forum Resident

    Location:
    Durham
    Wonderful film!
     

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