In Jazz-Movie Endings, Some Story Elements Just Keep Bouncing Back


One cable this month Turner classics is presenting a series of movies with jazz connections as it happens our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a new book about movies that tell jazz stories so we invited him to talk a little about the subject in the first of two segments he looks at what he calls the stock jazz movie ending a basic plot element subject to many variations here's Kevin over ninety some years of movies about jazz some plot points and story elements keep coming back we see young musicians had been meant toward by African American elders who work basement clubs and want to play the way they feel when the man just wants him to play the music is written it's the movies so there are romantic complications sometimes tied to divergent musical tastes such problems may be resolved in a version of the stock jazz movie ending a big New York concerts or parties at odds are reconciled it turns up by nineteen thirty seven in the romantic comedy champagne waltz Fred MacMurray plays a saxophonist who turns old Vienna onto jazz killing business at the waltz palace next door and wrecking Fred's romance with the waltz kings are pressing her granddaughter in the end they're all on stage in New York romantic and musical differences are resolved is gigantic jazz and classical orchestras mash on a swinging the classics mashup of tiger rag in the blue Danube it's kitchen music clear storytelling symbolizing the wedding to come in the nineteen thirty eight Irving Berlin song fast Alexander's ragtime band moving the reconciliation between bandleader and singer to Carnegie Hall the gold standard for classy venues in the movies that template came back with minor variations for decades in nineteen forty sevens the fabulous Dorsey's battling brother bandleaders Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey playing themselves patch up their feud just long enough to play a double concerto just as the real Dorsey's cooperated long enough to make the movie a couple of months later came the film in New Orleans with the most over the top New York concert ending which clears the way for an opera singer Merion jazz Booker at Symphony Hall the singer acquire three pianos the Philarmonic orchestra and woody Herman's big band all cram onstage to murder the film's instant hit song which we've already heard Billy holiday do rather better the New York concert capital turns up through the nineteen fifties a jazz movie tradition as in the Benny Goodman story or St Louis blues or WC handy's disapproving people finally accept as blues music once performed in concert alongside Mozart and Mendelssohn more variations came later in nineteen seventy twos lady sings the blues after an analyst U. S. tour Diana Ross as Billie Holiday is finally allowed to play New York again at Carnegie with violence the real holiday did play Carnegie Hall but without the fiddles in twenty sixteen Nina is always held on as Nina Simone who's been living in better French exile plays a free concert in Central Park and discovers her people still love her reconciling Nina Simone and America no reconciliation ending has grander implications

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