A Song is Born

The back of this publicity still reads

Assisted by Danny Kaye the professors of classical music and a book of jazz. Benny Goodman tires to learn the intricacies of jazz in this scene from Samuel Goldwyn’s Technicolor comedy “A Song Is Born. ”  Seen are O.Z. Whitehead,  Danny, Hugh Hubert, J. Edward Bromber. Ludwig Stossel and Benny.  The film, which co-stars Danny and Virginia Mayo, is directed by Howard Hawks.

It must be a typo when Benny Goodman “tires to learn” and not “tries to learn” the intricacies of jazz.

And J. Edward Bromberg is misidentified as J. Edward Bromber.

 

Advertisements

A Song is Born


While A Song is Born (1948) is one of Howard Hawks’ four weak films, it is notable as his first film in color.  It was photographed by Gregg Toland who also photographed the original version, Ball of Fire (1942).  Check out the main Classic Hollywood and Beyond section for a great article on the great Toland.

http://howardhawks.com/gregg-toland-cinematographer-1904-1948/

A Song is Born

Virginia Mayo behind the scenes of A Song is Born (1948).  Virginia was one of the reasons for the weakness of the film.  Virginia was no match for Barbara Stanwyck as Sugarpuss O’Shea in the original Ball of Fire (1942).  The best Howard Hawks could do was to screen the original film and try to get Virginia to mimic Barbara.   Many other actresses would have brought more personality and spark to the role.

A Song is Born

unknown artist rendering of Benny Goodman, Danny Kaye and the other professors in A Song is Born (1948).  Despite their comic appearances, Howard Hawks said it was an altogether horrible experience.  Danny Kaye was going through an ugly divorce and stopped filming every day to meet with his psychiatrist, and Virginia Mayo was a poor choice for Sugarpuss O’Shea.

A Song is Born

Benny Goodman was nicknamed The King of Swing, helping to popularize the music trend that had been popular for a few years already by black musicians such as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Chick Webb and Fletcher Henderson.  Benny was born in Chicago and had 13 acting credits in his career from 1936 to A Song is Born in 1948, with a final acting gig on the tv series African Patrol (1958).

A Song is Born

The Samba Kings in a publicity still for A Song is Born (1948).  Howard Hawks’ remake of his Ball of Fire (1942) is one of Hawks’ four weak films.  Even his weak films have highlights, and the music in A Song if Born is terrific.

A Song is Born

 

Danny Kaye reads from a book on jazz with Benny Goodman on clarinet in A Song is Born (1948).  Benny’s biggest competition as leader of a big band on clarinet was Artie Shaw.  Late in life Artie was once asked about the state of popular music, replying “Madonna in a jock strap is not music.”

A Song is Born

Esther Dale reprised her role as Miss Bragg in the Ball of Fire remake A Song is Born (1948), as did Mary Field as Miss Totten.

A Song is Born

publicity still for A Song is Born (1948), one of Howard Hawks’ four weak films.  There is literally no screenwriter credit during the on screen credits.  The only credit is for Billy Wilder’s original version, Ball of Fire.  Billy had absolutely no involvement in the remake.  If he had, A Song is Born wouldn’t have been as lousy.

A Song is Born


Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo in a publicity still for A Song is Born (1948) copying Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck.  Howard said Danny was as funny as a crutch and only did the movie for the major loot thrown at him by producer Samuel Goldwyn who also produced Ball of Fire (1942).  Howard needed the money after spending much out of his own pocket to produce his previous film Red River.

A Song is Born

the jazz musicians are in a hostage situation in A Song is Born (1948)

A Song is Born

Virginia Mayo as Honey Swanson in A Song is Born (1948).  The best Howard Hawks could do was to get Virginia to mimic Barbara Stanwyck’s Oscar nominated performance of the original, Ball of Fire (1942).

A Song is Born

Virginia Mayo tries to fit in with Mel Powell at the piano in a publicity still for A Song is Born (1948)

A Song is Born

Mary Field reprises her role as Miss Totten from Ball of Fire in the misguided musical remake A Song is Born (1948).  Howard Hawks made the film as a favor to producer Samuel Goldwyn who offered him a boodle which he couldn’t resist after all the expenses of his previous film, Red River.  It was also an opportunity to film in color for the first time in his career.  The biggest problem with the film is that the leads Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo are no match for Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck.  The film was a missed opportunity, as Bing Crosby worked for Goldwyn as recently as 1944, and he might have been terrific in the lead role, and many many actresses would have brought more personality and sex appeal than Miss Mayo.

A Song is Born

gospel greats The Golden Gate Quartet in A Song is Born (1948)