The Benny Goodman Story (1956)

115-116 mins | Biography, Musical | February 1956

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HISTORY

Valentine Davies' onscreen credit reads "written and directed by Valentine Davies." According to a 1954 HR news item, the tremendous success of his 1954 Universal film The Glenn Miller Story convinced producer Aaron Rosenberg to make this film, which he was already developing. When Rosenberg asked Davies, the writer of the 1954 production, to script The Benny Goodman Story , Davies expressed an interest in directing it, and Rosenberg acceded to his request. This was the only feature film that Davies directed. In Feb 1955, HR listed Marlon Brando as a possible star, and a Nov 1955 HR article reported that Art Gilmore would narrate the film. According to materials contained in the Valentine Davies Collection at the AMPAS Library, Benny Goodman was paid $25,000 for the rights to his story, plus an additional $10,000 for consulting. Ludwig Stossell was originally to play the role of "Prof. Schepp," according to the Davies files.
       Although the events depicted in the film were inspired by real incidents, the chronology was altered. Benny Goodman (1909-1986) began playing professionally at the age of twelve, and while still a teenager, joined Ben Pollack's band. In the early 1930's, Goodman's band, which at the time included Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton, was the first interracial jazz ensemble to appear in public. From 1936 on, Goodman was known as "The King of Swing," and his 1938 Carnegie Hall appearance marked the first time that a jazz band performed in that venerable institution.
       Materials contained in the production files on the film in the AMPAS Library note that Sol Yagel spent ... More Less

Valentine Davies' onscreen credit reads "written and directed by Valentine Davies." According to a 1954 HR news item, the tremendous success of his 1954 Universal film The Glenn Miller Story convinced producer Aaron Rosenberg to make this film, which he was already developing. When Rosenberg asked Davies, the writer of the 1954 production, to script The Benny Goodman Story , Davies expressed an interest in directing it, and Rosenberg acceded to his request. This was the only feature film that Davies directed. In Feb 1955, HR listed Marlon Brando as a possible star, and a Nov 1955 HR article reported that Art Gilmore would narrate the film. According to materials contained in the Valentine Davies Collection at the AMPAS Library, Benny Goodman was paid $25,000 for the rights to his story, plus an additional $10,000 for consulting. Ludwig Stossell was originally to play the role of "Prof. Schepp," according to the Davies files.
       Although the events depicted in the film were inspired by real incidents, the chronology was altered. Benny Goodman (1909-1986) began playing professionally at the age of twelve, and while still a teenager, joined Ben Pollack's band. In the early 1930's, Goodman's band, which at the time included Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton, was the first interracial jazz ensemble to appear in public. From 1936 on, Goodman was known as "The King of Swing," and his 1938 Carnegie Hall appearance marked the first time that a jazz band performed in that venerable institution.
       Materials contained in the production files on the film in the AMPAS Library note that Sol Yagel spent two months teaching Steve Allen, who was a pianist and composer as well as an actor and comedian, to play the clarinet. According to the Har review, Goodman newly recorded all the songs on the film's soundtrack. In addition to the music listed above, a number of Benny Goodman's well-known pieces, including "Goody Goody," were heard briefly on the soundtrack. Studio press notes list the following original Goodman band members as contributors to the soundtrack: Jess Stacey (piano) and Mannie Klein (trumpet). According to a modern source, trumpet player Ziggy Elman's solo in the "And the Angels Sing" number was dubbed on the soundtrack by Klein because, by the time of the film, Elman's lip was permanently damaged.
       HR news items add Jane Howard and Julie Dorsey, band leader Tommy Dorsey’s daughter, to the cast, and state that Steven Ford, Jr. made his debut in the picture, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Barry Truex made his feature film debut in The Benny Goodman Story . Portions of the picture were shot on location in Chicago, according to the Davies files.
       A joint memo issued by the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith praised the film for its "sympathy and dignity in handling Jewish family life, and because it is symbolic of the contributions of Jews to America's artistic and cultural life." The film was also commended for its "handling of the integration of white and negro musicians in Goodman's orchestra. The subject is never raised, but it is quite plain that the test for Goodman was always the competence of the man and never his color." More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 Dec 1955.
---
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1955
p. 3.
Film Daily
15 Dec 1955
p. 6.
Harrison's Reports
17 Dec 1955
p. 204.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 1954.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Feb 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 1955
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jul 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jul 1955
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 1955
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 1956
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1956
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 Dec 1955
p. 713.
New York Times
21 Feb 1956
p. 37.
New York Times
22 Feb 1956
p. 22.
The Exhibitor
28 Dec 1955
p. 4080.
Variety
21 Dec 1955
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Edward "Kid" Ory
Guest appearances
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Stills
Co-grip
Co-grip
Co-grip
Gaffer
Best boy
Lamp op
Lamp op
Lamp op
Lamp op
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITORS
Asst cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst props
COSTUMES
Gowns
Ward woman
Ward man
Asst ward
MUSIC
Addl mus
Instrumental coach
Instrumental coach
Instrumental coach
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup
Makeup
Body makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Scr clerk
Cable man
Sync man
Clarinet coach
Painter
Laborer
Playback op
Crane op
Crane op
STAND INS
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
MUSIC
Concerto for Clarinet by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
"Stompin' at the Savoy" by Benny Goodman, Edgar Sampson and Chick Webb, arranged by Fletcher Henderson
"Memories of You" by Eubie Blake
+
MUSIC
Concerto for Clarinet by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
"Stompin' at the Savoy" by Benny Goodman, Edgar Sampson and Chick Webb, arranged by Fletcher Henderson
"Memories of You" by Eubie Blake
"One O'Clock Jump" by Count Basie and Harry James
"Don't Be That Way" by Benny Goodman and Edgar Sampson
"Shine" by Ford Dabney
"Sing, Sing, Sing" by Louis Prima
"Let's Dance," based on "Invitation to Dance" by Carl Maria von Weber
"Avalon" by B. G. DeSylva and Vincent Rose
"Moonglow" by Will Hudson, Eddie De Lange and Irving Mills
"Jersey Bounce" by Bobby Plater, Tiny Bradshaw, Edward Johnson and Robert B. Wright
"Dixieland One-Step," "Waitin' for Katie" and "Twenty Years of Jazz," composers undetermined.
+
SONGS
"And the Angels Sing," words by Johnny Mercer, music by Ziggy Elman.
DETAILS
Release Date:
February 1956
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Chicago, IL: 2 February 1956
New York opening: 21 February 1956
Los Angeles opening: 12 February 1956
Production Date:
1 July--20 August 1955
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co.
Copyright Date:
28 November 1955
Copyright Number:
LP5688
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
up to 2:1
Duration(in mins):
115-116
Length(in feet):
10,463
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17731
SYNOPSIS

Poor though they are, Dave and Dora Goodman are determined to secure a good education for their sons. In 1919, Prof. Schepp offers music classes to Chicago's tenement dwellers at Hull House, and although young Benny Goodman dislikes the instrument at first, he becomes an excellent clarinetist by the time he is fourteen. Benny practices his Mozart passages, but when an opportunity to play in a ragtime band arises, he joins the musicians' union and begins his performance career. During a break, Benny listens with awe to the New Orleans jazz band of Edward "Kid" Ory, who advises him to play the way he feels and invites him to sit in. Later, Benny, still two years away from high school graduation, joins the Ben Pollack band and plays at dances throughout the country. On his first visit back home, Benny is dismayed to learn that his father, who always supported his musical aspirations, has been killed in an accident on the way to the train station. The Pollack band secures a job in the speakeasy of Benny's former neighbor, Little Jake Primo, who is now a gangster. There he meets wealthy John Hammond, a jazz lover and music critic, and John's sister Alice, who prefers classical to "hot" music and is uncomfortable in Benny's presence. Pollack's band flops in New York, and Benny, full of ideas but worried that there is no audience for his kind of music, is forced to perform with more traditional dance bands in order to earn a meager living. Still impressed with Benny's talent, Hammond invites him to perform a Mozart clarinet concerto before an audience of ... +


Poor though they are, Dave and Dora Goodman are determined to secure a good education for their sons. In 1919, Prof. Schepp offers music classes to Chicago's tenement dwellers at Hull House, and although young Benny Goodman dislikes the instrument at first, he becomes an excellent clarinetist by the time he is fourteen. Benny practices his Mozart passages, but when an opportunity to play in a ragtime band arises, he joins the musicians' union and begins his performance career. During a break, Benny listens with awe to the New Orleans jazz band of Edward "Kid" Ory, who advises him to play the way he feels and invites him to sit in. Later, Benny, still two years away from high school graduation, joins the Ben Pollack band and plays at dances throughout the country. On his first visit back home, Benny is dismayed to learn that his father, who always supported his musical aspirations, has been killed in an accident on the way to the train station. The Pollack band secures a job in the speakeasy of Benny's former neighbor, Little Jake Primo, who is now a gangster. There he meets wealthy John Hammond, a jazz lover and music critic, and John's sister Alice, who prefers classical to "hot" music and is uncomfortable in Benny's presence. Pollack's band flops in New York, and Benny, full of ideas but worried that there is no audience for his kind of music, is forced to perform with more traditional dance bands in order to earn a meager living. Still impressed with Benny's talent, Hammond invites him to perform a Mozart clarinet concerto before an audience of blue bloods in the Hammond mansion. Alice is pleasantly surprised by Benny's performance and remarks that although he seems calm and quiet, "all this emotion comes pouring out" when he plays. Benny forms a band and begins to perform on an NBC Saturday night radio program. Admired jazz musician Fletcher Henderson hears the program from his home base in Harlem and is so impressed that he begins to contribute musical arrangements to the band. After the show is canceled, Benny's orchestra goes on tour, but before he leaves, he and Alice declare their strong but confusing feelings for each other. The tour is a failure until the orchestra reaches Palomar, California, where, the group, having won a large following of young fans on the West Coast, is a tremendous success. Benny sees Alice in the audience and plays "Memories of You" for her, and after the show, the two kiss. Benny forms a quartet that includes Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa, and by the time Benny, his orchestra and his quartet return to Chicago, they are making headlines in Variety . Alice attends the orchestra's New York debut, where a surging crowd dances in the aisles, and later that day, she is relieved to learn that her father approves of the romance. Benny's mother, however, informs her son that his love for Alice is "like a knife in my heart." Worried, Alice visits Mrs. Goodman, who declares that "you don't mix caviar with bagels." Benny is booked into Carnegie Hall, but he wonders why Alice is not planning to attend and worries that "a hall full of longhairs" will disapprove of the orchestra's music. Finally realizing how much Benny loves Alice, Mrs. Goodman secretly invites her to attend the concert, which will feature the orchestra and guest performers Harry James, Ziggy Elman and Martha Tilton. Travel delays nearly cause Alice to miss Benny's triumphant performance, but she arrives in time for a standing ovation and an encore performance of "Memories of You." +

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

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