|PETE KELLY'S BLUES (director: Jack Webb; screenwriter: Richard Breen; cinematographer: Hal Rosson; editor: Robert Leeds; music: Sammy Cahn/Ray Heindorf; cast: Jack Webb (Pete Kelly), Edmond O'Brien (Fran McCarg), Janet Leigh (Ivy), Lee Marvin (Al Gannaway), Peggy Lee (Rose Hopkins), Andy Devine (George Tenell), Lee Marvin (Al Gannaway), Ella Fitzgerald (Maggie Jackson), Martin Milner (Joey Firestone), Than Wyenn (Rudy Shulak), Herb Ellis (Bedido), Jayne Mansfield (Cigarette Girl), John Dennis (Guy Bettenhauser); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack Webb; Warner Brothers; 1955)|
jazz pic from the Prohibition era."
by Dennis Schwartz
but well-photographed atmospheric jazz pic from the
Prohibition era. Its best moments are the great Ella
Fitzgerald belting out Hard Hearted Hannah and the
opening black funeral for a jazz musician in New
Orleans, in 1915. The film's other jazz singer,
Peggy Lee, stylishly sings Sing A Rainbow, even
while playing a straight dramatic role as a fading
singer hitting the bottle. Ms Lee received an Oscar
nomination for Best Supporting Actress. TV's Dragnet
star Jack Webb ("Dragnet"/"The D.I.")
produces, directs and stars. It's tiredly written by
Richard Breen. Even if it makes an earnest effort to
recreate the jazz and gangster scene in the 1920s, it
nevertheless is a lifeless pic with the dramatics less
than compelling. Though, to its credit, it depicts the
jazz players with great sympathy and understanding.
Kelly (Jack Webb) is the cornet player and leader of a
struggling jazz group in Kansas City, in 1927. They
play in a speakeasy run by the sleazy cheapskate Rudy
(Than Wyenn). The boys
stick with Rudy until ruthless bootlegger Fran
McCarg (Edmond O'Brien) forces
the jazz band to work for him or else. Instead of the
usual ten percent split of the earnings, the gangster
demands twenty-five percent. When the band's young
drummer, Joey Firestone (Martin
Milner), voices in
public his displeasure of the racketeer it results in
him thrown through a car windshield. In a later
incident, Fran's thugs gun the hothead down in the
speakeasy for continuing to voice his disapproval of
the crime boss.
Pete reluctantly begins a relationship with Ivy Conrad
(Janet Leigh), whose parents are wealthy. At the same
time Pete tries to look out for his boys, as he deals
Devine plays the determined strong-armed detective
trying to use Pete to put the gangster behind bars.
Lee Marvin plays Webb's clarinetist band
member, who forms another band when Fran
melancholy pic thrives on realism. Too bad it wastes a
good jazz score on a dull gangster story.
REVIEWED ON 7/11/2015 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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