Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Blues in the Night

I've twice mentioned the movie Blues in the Night before. It's airing overnight tonight at 3:45 AM ET on TCM as part of their month-long tribute to lyricist Johnny Mercer (who wrote the lyrics to the title song). However, I haven't said much about the plot, so now would be a good time to do so.

Richard Whorf stars as the leader and pianist for a struggling blues/jazz band, which makes its way around the country, taking gigs where it can. They're only eking out a living, until they run into somebody who can help them while they're stowing away on a train. Tha man is gangster Lloyd Nolan, who has a road house just across the river from Manhattan, and makes them the house band. Whorf meets Betty Field, the seeming business partner and former lover of Nolan, and falls in love with her, although it's an unrequited love that drives him mad, and threatens to derail his musical career.

The cast also includes Priscilla Lane as the band's singer. She's married to the band's trumpeter, played by Jack Carson, and is going to have his baby, despite the fact that this is going to be a severe financial strain on everybody. (Just don't say she's pregnant -- there's that darn Production Code.) As I mentioned the first time I brought up the movie, there's also Elia Kazan, playing one of the band members, who also wants to be a lawyer. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the movie, though, is a dream-like montage sequence when, after being jilted by Field, Whorf has a nervous breakdown and ends up in a psychiatric hospital.

Blues in the Night goes all over the place, and is fun, if not without its flaws. It's also available on DVD.

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