Sunday, April 03, 2005

Jazz Music and Donna Reed

I guess there are two types of vacations: adventurous vacations, and lazy vacations. I'm currently on a lazy vacation. (Somehow all my vacations seem to turn out that way). Shoko was nice enough to lend me the car for a couple days, but she wanted to use it for work on Saturday and Sunday, so I've been stuck at her house watching a bunch of videos.

Not all bad. Since I don't have a TV in my apartment, I do look forward to these chances to uses Shoko's VCR and DVD player to get all that video watching out of my system. In addition to gulping down the usual SF and Action junk, I've seen a couple interesting Jazz Biopics.

"The Glenn Miller Story" staring Jimmy Stewart and "The Benny Goodman Story" staring Steve Allen are both fascinating time pieces. It is interesting to see the Jazz greats of the 1930s interpreted through the lens of the 1950s.

The Japan Times has an interesting review of "The American Biopic" which says:

"Say what you will about the Hollywood biopic, but no matter how much they play with the truth, no matter how predictable they are in laying out a series of moments that make up a life, they're nothing if not democratic. For while the subjects of biopics are invariably the super-successful or talented, there's always this populist impulse to tear them down a little, to show the foibles, weaknesses, and darker impulses that make them more human, more like the rest of us."

Well, if that is true, than it must be a recent phenomenon, because these Jazz biopics of the 1950s only show the successes of their subject. It's all up, up and up.

And everyone is squeaky clean. Everyone is on their best manners at all times, and both movies are essentially romance stories between the musicians and their one true love (June Allyson and Donna Reed respectively). Both James Stewart and Steve Allen could easily have walked out of a 1950s sitcom, and both at times seem to be playing themselves more than their characters. (You know how Jimmy Stewart especially has a way of appearing the same way in all his movies).

I'm no Jazz expert, but my impression of the Jazz scene during that period was that it had a seedy underbelly to it. But I'd be interested in the feedback of anyone who knows more than me.

I'm not sure if anyone has all the time in the world to laze around and watch videos at the moment, but if you get a chance and you're in the mood for something different, either of these movies are really interesting time pieces. Any of you music buffs (you know who you are), I'd be interested to hear what you think of it especially.

Speaking of interesting time pieces: Bork has a link to a hilarious piece on the Communist Subversion of American Folk Music. Be sure to follow the links to Janet Greene: The anti-Baez and The Goldwaters: Sing Songs to Bug Liberals. If you need a laugh today, it doesn't get any funnier than this.

Video Version

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