The Five Pennies (1959)

114 or 117 mins | Biography, Drama | August 1959

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Intermission , The Red Nichols Story and Red Nichols . The HR erroneously listed the film's running time as 157 minutes. The Five Pennies is based on the life of noted jazz musician Ernest Loring "Red" Nichols (1905--1965), who, after being taught to play the cornet by his father, began playing professionally at a young age. Influenced strongly by the "Dixieland" style of jazz, Nichols played in various bands before beginning to record and appear on his own in the mid-1920s. With a rotating roster of bandmates, Nichols usually billed his group as "Red Nichols and His Five Pennies," and quickly became established as one of the leading players of "hot" jazz. As depicted in the film, many music legends such as Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Gene Krupa performed in Nichols’ band early in their careers.
       Nichols' wife, Willa Stutsman, was a dancer, not a singer as portrayed in the film. When their young daughter was afflicted by polio in 1942, Nichols quit playing and worked in the San Francisco shipyards during World War II. After the war ended, Nichols returned to music and increasing fame, and in 1956, was featured on the This Is Your Life television show. Nichols is widely considered to be one of the most influential jazz musicians of the 1920s. As noted in the onscreen credits, Nichols himself played the cornet and trumpet solos that are heard in the film. Actor Danny Kaye spent several months learning to play the cornet in order to ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Intermission , The Red Nichols Story and Red Nichols . The HR erroneously listed the film's running time as 157 minutes. The Five Pennies is based on the life of noted jazz musician Ernest Loring "Red" Nichols (1905--1965), who, after being taught to play the cornet by his father, began playing professionally at a young age. Influenced strongly by the "Dixieland" style of jazz, Nichols played in various bands before beginning to record and appear on his own in the mid-1920s. With a rotating roster of bandmates, Nichols usually billed his group as "Red Nichols and His Five Pennies," and quickly became established as one of the leading players of "hot" jazz. As depicted in the film, many music legends such as Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Gene Krupa performed in Nichols’ band early in their careers.
       Nichols' wife, Willa Stutsman, was a dancer, not a singer as portrayed in the film. When their young daughter was afflicted by polio in 1942, Nichols quit playing and worked in the San Francisco shipyards during World War II. After the war ended, Nichols returned to music and increasing fame, and in 1956, was featured on the This Is Your Life television show. Nichols is widely considered to be one of the most influential jazz musicians of the 1920s. As noted in the onscreen credits, Nichols himself played the cornet and trumpet solos that are heard in the film. Actor Danny Kaye spent several months learning to play the cornet in order to be able to duplicate Nichols' fingering.
       According to information in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, Kaye became interested in playing Nichols in late 1954, when he signed an agreement with Paramount to have his company, Dena, and Paramount co-produce the property. In Nov 1954, Var noted that Nichols had “turned over 2,500 [of his] musical arrangements and scores” to Paramount’s music department. The Beverly Hills Citizen review of the picture noted that Don Hartman, the head of production at Paramount from 1950 to 1956, was the first producer who became interested in developing the project. 1954 and 1955 HR news items list first Paul Jones and then Pat Duggan as the producer. In Jul 1955, HR listed Robert Parrish as the film's potential director. LAT reported in Jul 1956 that Melville Shavelson and Jack Rose were taking over the project from Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, who also served as a producing-writing-directing team for Paramount.
       According to studio records and contemporary news items, Daniel Fuchs, David Shaw, Edward O. Berkman, Raphael D. Blau and John Michael Hayes worked on the film's screenplay; however, the extent of their contribution to the completed film, if any, has not been determined. An Aug 1955 studio memo reveals that Ray June was originally set as the picture’s director of photography, but due to “serious script trouble,” the project was delayed. In Jan 1957, pre-production on the film was stopped altogether, with a studio memo stating that the picture would not be produced until 1958.
       Although pre-production work on the film did begin again in early 1958, principal photography was delayed until Oct 1958 due to the musicians’ union strike, which precluded the participation of musicians such as Louis Armstrong. A May 1958 HR news item reported that Paramount offered to release Kaye from his contract to make the film with them so that he could make it for release by United Artists. As an independent studio, UA would have been more likely to sign an “interim agreement” with the musicians’ union, and if so, then the film could have been made without Armstrong and the other musicians breaking the strike. A distribution deal with UA could not be reached, however, and the project was continued at Paramount.
       A 19 Feb 1958 HR news item announced that Nick Castle was set to act as the picture’s choreographer, but the delay in production may have caused Castle to drop out and be replaced by Earl Barton. According to other Feb 1958 HR news items, Polly Bergen was considered for the role of “Bobbie Meredith” and singer Bob Anthony was tested for a part. An Apr 1958 item in HR ’s “Rambling Reporter” column noted that Patti Page was also under consideration for the role of Bobbie. A Sep 1958 HR news item stated that Benny Goodman was in negotiations to play himself, but an Oct 1958 “Rambling Reporter” item asserted that the deal fell through because of Goodman’s high salary demands. According to studio records, young actresses tested for the part of “Dorothy” as a teenager included Patty McCormack, Beverly Washburn, Sandy Descher, Karen Green and Andrea Lee.
       Although HR news items stated that June White and Paul Sullivan had been cast in the film, their appearance in the released picture has not been confirmed. A 28 Nov 1958 HR news item reported that Kaye cast his daughter Dena, for whom his production company was named, as a hospital ward patient. According to the news item, the cameo was to mark her motion picture debut, but her appearance in the completed film also has not been confirmed. Nichols appears briefly in the picture as one of the "Clicquot Club Eskimos," in the sequence in which Kaye, as "Nichols," appears on a number of radio shows, singing "(Back Home Again in) Indiana" in various styles. Studio records note that second unit shooting was done on location in San Francisco and New York. Other California locations included Terminal Island, Long Beach, the Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, Sherman Oaks and the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood.
       According to a Mar 1959 HR news item, Kaye’s ex-business manager, Edward Dukoff, sued Kaye, his wife, Sylvia Fine, and Dena Pictures, Inc., claiming that he was entitled to a percentage of the profits from any of Kaye’s films developed between 1948 and 1955, including The Five Pennies , on which Dukoff allegedly worked in 1953 and 1954. The disposition of the suit has not been determined.
       The film received Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography (Color), Best Costume Design (Color), Best Original Song for "The Five Pennies" and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture. In addition to a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture--Musical, the picture received a Grammy nomination for Best Soundtrack Album, Original Cast--Motion Picture or Television. The Five Pennies marked the final film appearance of silent movie actress Blanche Sweet (1895--1986), who had not appeared in a picture since the 1930 RKO production The Silver Horde (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ). Musician Shelly Manne again portrayed fellow drummer Dave Tough in the 1960 Columbia release The Gene Krupa Story (see below). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Beverly Hills Citizen
1 Jul 1959.
---
Box Office
4 May 1959.
---
Box Office
11 May 1959.
---
Cue
13 Jun 1959.
---
Daily Variety
1 Nov 1954.
---
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1954.
---
Daily Variety
12 Mar 1956.
---
Daily Variety
4 May 59
p. 3.
Film Daily
5 May 59
p. 11.
Filmfacts
1959
pp. 166-68.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Dec 1954.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jul 1955
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Dec 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 1958
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Feb 1958
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 1958
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 1958
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 1958
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 1958
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 1958
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 1958
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Nov 1958
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 1958
p. 3, 18.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 1959
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Mar 1959
p. 1, 22.
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 59
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1959
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1959
pp. 5-15.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 1959
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 1960
p. 5.
LAMirror-News
1 Jul 1959
Section II, pp. 4-5.
Life
25 May 1959
p. 106.
Los Angeles Times
29 Dec 1954.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Jul 1956.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Jun 1959
pp. 1-2.
Los Angeles Times
1 Jul 1959.
---
Motion Picture Herald
25 Jul 1959
pp. 20-21.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
9 May 59
p. 252.
New York Times
19 Jun 59
p. 30.
New Yorker
27 Jun 1959.
---
Time
3 Aug 1959.
---
Variety
10 Nov 1954.
---
Variety
6 May 59
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Sidney Marion
Paul Francis DeRolf
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITERS
Scr
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
2d unit photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
Company grip
Best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
Col coord
Leadman
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Props
Props
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Cost
Ward man
Ward woman
Costumer
MUSIC
Mus scored and cond
Musical instruments by
Mus adv
Vocal coach
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Titles created by
DANCE
Choreog
Asst dance dir
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Hair style supv
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Assoc to the prod
Prod asst
Dial coach
Cornet coach
Scr supv
Tech adv
Unit prod mgr
Prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
New York unit mgr
Casting dir
Casting
Casting secy
Prod's secy
Unit pub
Craft service
STAND INS
Trumpet solos for Danny Kaye by
Singing voice double for Barbara Bel Geddes
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Battle Hymn of the Republic" by William Steffe
"After You've Gone" by Henry Creamer and Turner Layton
"Washington and Lee Swing" by Thornton W. Allen and M. W. Sheafe
+
MUSIC
"Battle Hymn of the Republic" by William Steffe
"After You've Gone" by Henry Creamer and Turner Layton
"Washington and Lee Swing" by Thornton W. Allen and M. W. Sheafe
"Runnin' Wild" by A. Harrington Gibbs
"Just the Blues" by Leith Stevens
"Wail of the Wind" by Harry Warren
"Ja-Da" by Bob Carleton
"(You Came Along from) Out of Nowhere" by John W. Green
"That's A Plenty" by Bert A. Williams
"Back Bay Shuffle" by Teddy McRae and Artie Shaw
"Mary Had a Little Lamb," traditional.
+
SONGS
"The Five Pennies," "Follow the Leader," "Lullaby in Ragtime," "Schnitzelbank" and "Goodnight--Sleep Tight," music and lyrics by Sylvia Fine
"When the Saints Go Marching In," music by James M. Black, lyrics by Katharine E. Purvis, special lyrics and adaptation by Sylvia Fine
"Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home," music and lyrics by Hughie Cannon
+
SONGS
"The Five Pennies," "Follow the Leader," "Lullaby in Ragtime," "Schnitzelbank" and "Goodnight--Sleep Tight," music and lyrics by Sylvia Fine
"When the Saints Go Marching In," music by James M. Black, lyrics by Katharine E. Purvis, special lyrics and adaptation by Sylvia Fine
"Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home," music and lyrics by Hughie Cannon
"My Blue Heaven," music by Walter Donaldson, lyrics by George Whiting
"Paradise," music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Nacio Herb Brown and Gordon Clifford
"(Back Home Again in) Indiana," music by James F. Hanley, lyrics by Ballard MacDonald, special lyrics and adaptation by Sylvia Fine
"The Music Goes 'Round and 'Round," music by Edward Farley and Michael Riley, lyrics by "Red" Hodgson
"Jingle Bells," music and lyrics by J. S. Pierpont
"Largo al factotum" from the opera Il barbiere di Siviglia , music by Giocchino Antonio Rossini, libretto by Cesare Sterbini
"Carnival of Venice," music by Nicolò Paganini, lyrics by Barclay Grey.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Intermission
Red Nichols
The Red Nichols Story
Release Date:
August 1959
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 17 June 1959
Los Angeles opening: 30 June 1959
Production Date:
7 October--3 December 1958
Copyright Claimant:
Dena Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
18 June 1959
Copyright Number:
LP14115
Physical Properties:
Sound
Technicolor
Color
Westrex Recording System
Widescreen/ratio
VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity
Duration(in mins):
114 or 117
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19186
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1924, Red Nichols, a superb cornet player despite his naiveté, travels from his small hometown in Utah to New York City to join the band of crooner Wil Paradise. Red irritates the smug Paradise by offering to play in the new, jazzier New Orleans style, and when Paradise angrily rebukes him, Red asserts that before long, all of his fellow musicians will be working for him. Later, musician Tony Valani asks Red to join him on a double date with two chorus girls, Bobbie Meredith and Tommye Eden, but Red insists that they go to Harlem to hear Louis Armstrong, a black trumpet player from the South. Tony acquiesces to Red’s demand and the quartet goes to the club, although Bobbie assumes that Red is a boring hick because he is from Utah. At the club, which is actually a speakeasy, Red is awed by Louis’ talent while Bobbie, who correctly surmises that Red has never before imbibed, gets him drunk as a joke. Bobbie regrets her actions, however, when Red, inspired by Louis, takes the stage to play with him and makes a fool of himself. After the embarrassed Red sobers up, he reveals to Bobbie that his real name is Ernest Loring Nichols, and, contrite, she confesses that her name is Willa Stutsman and that she also is from a close family. When Bobbie still does not believe that Red can really play, however, he accompanies Louis from the back of the club, and Louis and the audience are thrilled by Red’s skill. Red gets Bobbie a job as a singer with Paradise’s band, and the couple soon ... +


In 1924, Red Nichols, a superb cornet player despite his naiveté, travels from his small hometown in Utah to New York City to join the band of crooner Wil Paradise. Red irritates the smug Paradise by offering to play in the new, jazzier New Orleans style, and when Paradise angrily rebukes him, Red asserts that before long, all of his fellow musicians will be working for him. Later, musician Tony Valani asks Red to join him on a double date with two chorus girls, Bobbie Meredith and Tommye Eden, but Red insists that they go to Harlem to hear Louis Armstrong, a black trumpet player from the South. Tony acquiesces to Red’s demand and the quartet goes to the club, although Bobbie assumes that Red is a boring hick because he is from Utah. At the club, which is actually a speakeasy, Red is awed by Louis’ talent while Bobbie, who correctly surmises that Red has never before imbibed, gets him drunk as a joke. Bobbie regrets her actions, however, when Red, inspired by Louis, takes the stage to play with him and makes a fool of himself. After the embarrassed Red sobers up, he reveals to Bobbie that his real name is Ernest Loring Nichols, and, contrite, she confesses that her name is Willa Stutsman and that she also is from a close family. When Bobbie still does not believe that Red can really play, however, he accompanies Louis from the back of the club, and Louis and the audience are thrilled by Red’s skill. Red gets Bobbie a job as a singer with Paradise’s band, and the couple soon marries. On the evening of their wedding, Red is so irritated by Paradise’s hypocrisy that he quits and also costs Bobbie her job. Bobbie cannot maintain her fury at Red, however, after he confesses that he pawned his treasured cornet to pay for their bridal suite. Resigning herself that she will never know what her impulsive yet talented husband will do, Bobbie follows Red as he takes numerous radio jobs, which he invariably loses due to his clowning. One day, Bobbie goes to their neighborhood deli and there joins a group of musicians, including Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Artie Schutt and Dave Tough. When they joke about Red’s impractical dreams, Bobbie berates them for not even reading his latest arrangements, and upon realizing that Bobbie is pregnant, the chastened musicians reconsider Red's arrangements. Impressed, they join Red and soon, as Red Nichols and His Five Pennies, they are producing one hit record after another by playing Red’s Dixieland-style jazz. Bobbie accompanies Red and the band on their nonstop tours, but after she has the baby, a girl they name Dorothy, Red decides to settle down. Bobbie assures Red that the baby will not interfere with his career, and soon, Dorothy joins them on the road. Five years pass as the band’s fame continues to spread during their travels, and Dorothy grows accustomed to their itinerant lifestyle. One night, however, while Bobbie is away visiting her sister, Red takes Dorothy with him to listen to Louis, with whom he has become close friends. When Bobbie suddenly returns home, she is appalled to find Dorothy at the late-night jam session, and tells Red that they must settle down for their daughter’s sake. Red confesses that he wants to continue touring and persuades Bobbie to put Dorothy in a San Francisco boarding school, “just for a little while.” Dorothy is deeply resentful of Red’s decision, especially as her parents’ visits become more infrequent. Then one day, Red learns that Dorothy has fallen ill and when he rushes to join Bobbie at her side, is told that she has polio. The sullen Dorothy refuses to acknowledge Red, who, heartbroken and believing that Dorothy’s illness is his fault, throws his cornet off the Golden Gate Bridge into the San Francisco Bay. Determined to do everything he can to enable his daughter to walk again, Red quits the music business, buys a small house for his family in Los Angeles and takes a job at the nearby shipyards. Red and Bobbie work hard on Dorothy’s physical therapy, and by her fourteenth birthday, she is able to walk with the use of canes. At her birthday party, her friends laugh at the idea that her father was once a famous musician, which Dorothy herself can barely remember. They play some of his old records, however, and are impressed. Meanwhile, Red is at the shipyard where Glenn, now the leader of his own successful band, is performing to encourage the workers in their wartime efforts. Tiredly telling a coworker that he has heard the music before, Red leaves before the concert ends and joins Dorothy’s party. Red is angered by the teenagers’ condescending attitude toward his musical career, but when he tries to demonstrate that he really can play, only a few sour notes issue from an old cornet that Tony had sent to Bobbie in case Red ever wanted it. Declaring that he has lost his ability to play, Red spurns Tony’s offer to help him get a club date when Bobbie arranges for them to meet. Dorothy, realizing that her father gave up music for her, urges Red not to be a quitter, just as he used to encourage her to regain her strength. Still unsure of himself, Red is reluctant, but with his wife and daughter behind him, he begins to practice. Two months later, Tony gets Red a “gig” in a small nightclub and on opening night, Red is deeply disappointed that none of his old friends have come to see him. Although only Dorothy, Bobbie and a few disinterested drinkers are in the club, Red begins the show. As he plays, he is astonished to hear Louis, Glenn and all his old bandmates parade in, playing along with him. A huge audience also pours into the club, and Red gleefully jams with Louis. After their triumphant number, Red asks Bobbie to join him on stage, and she tells him that she has a surprise for him. Dorothy then walks to the center of the dance floor without the aid of her cane and, curtsying to her father, asks him for a dance. Overwhelmed, Red sweeps his daughter up to the stage and joins his friends in another number. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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