The Beat Goes On

Hollywood has churned out countless musical biographies on popular musicians, singers and songwriters over the years, jazz artists and their life stories have remained a virtually untapped genre with few exceptions (Bird, Clint Eastwood’s 1988 portrait of Charlie Parker, 2015’s Born to be Blue with Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker). There was a brief time in the fifties, however, where public interest in some of the big band legends and early jazz innovators resulted in a spate of high-profile biopics: The Glenn Miller Story [1953], The Benny Goodman Story [1955], and The Five Pennies [1959), starring Danny Kaye as jazz trumpeter Red Nichols. Coming at the end of the cycle was The Gene Krupa Story [1959] which featured Sal Mineo (twenty years old at the time) in his first adult screen role. 

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Those Men and Women in White

What could be a more ideal setting than a hospital to explore countless dramatic scenarios, character relationships and potentially hot-button topical issues that affect both the public and the medical community? With each decade new variations on the medical drama formula emerge and one of the most successful films in this genre in the early sixties was The Interns (1962).  

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Robert Altman and the Cult of James Dean

A young Robert Altman ponders a camera set-up.

A young Robert Altman ponders a camera set-up.

While it is rarely shown in retrospectives of his work, Robert Altman’s The James Dean Story (1957) is easily one of the more offbeat and poetic examples of documentary filmmaking. Officially cited as his second feature (Altman’s first was The Delinquents, 1957), The James Dean Story was co-produced and co-directed with George W. George, a former writing partner of Altman’s, as a serious exploration of the young actor’s mystique and impact on the youth culture of the fifties.   Continue reading