BIRTH OF THE BLUES:
As a child, Jeff Lambert (Bing Crosby) hangs out in New Orleans' Basin Street, playing hot swing on his clarinet instead of the classics his father prefers. He's Inspired by an African-American group there and some years later, at the turn of the century, sets out to form a jazz band of his own. With cornetist Memphis (Brian Donlevy), singer Betty Lou Cobb (Mary Martin) and trombonist Jack Teagarden (Of the Original Dixieland Jazz Group, after which the story is patterned), he's on his way.
A veritable history of jazz follows. From jump and jive to sweet romanticism, half a century of popular hits is given spectacular treatment. "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" is sung in a theatre with lantern slides on the screen. Singer Ruby Elzy's "St. Louis Blues" is backed by a chorus of eighty. And "Wait Till The Sun Shines, Nellie" brings Crosby and Martin together in a knockout duet.
For what Fred Astaire Had announced would be his last film, no expense was spared. This musical extravaganza boasts 30 Irving Berlin songs, 47 sets, sumptuous costumes, and a budget of $3,000,000. The result is sensational. (And, fortunately, Astaire did not retire from films!)
Dancing star Jed Potter (Astaire) and singer/nightclub owner Johnny Adams (Bing Crosby) are both in love with songstress Mary' O'Hara (Joan Caulfield). She marries Johnny, but his passion for buying and selling nightclubs drives them apart. So Jed steps in, hoping to win Mary's heart - until fate steps in and changes the lives of all three. The most outstanding number is Astaire's famous "Puttin' on the Ritz", a split-screen gem with a chorus of miniature Astaires tap-dancing behind him. Designed by Astaire, it took five weeks of "back-breaking physical work" to achieve. Other highlights find Astaire and Crosby as "A Couple of Song and Dance Men," and Crosby crooning a wealth of Berlin tunes, including the Oscar nominated "You Keep Coming Back Like A Song." With its superb stars and sparkling numbers, Blue Skies is one of the all-time great musicals!
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How lovely to see a film that has class again. The producers certainly knew how to make a stunning film in those days. As usual, Fred Astaire is absolutely scintillating with his dancing and in particular when doing, "Putting on the Ritz". Birth Of The Blues gave him the full opportunity to display his skills. Bing Crosby's singing and Joan Caulfields acting just kept adding to my enjoyment. An absolute classic. I will be seeing many more times in the future. Well worth the money.
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