26 November 2012

Precisely how jazz music is made

In tonight's final Film Society movie for 2012, High Society from 1956, Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong deliver 'Now You Has Jazz', a rousing Cole Porter number, as a statement of the charms of a uniquely American musical institution. It's the most animated moment in the film for the 53-year-old Crosby, and it's delightful to see him messing about with the gurning, ebullient Armstrong, who appears to be in a wonderfully daft mood.

It's slightly poignant, however, to note that this type of music was soon to be eclipsed by a rebellious, rambunctious younger sibling. High Society was released in July 1956, just over a year after the release of the film Blackboard Jungle, featuring the global smash hit 'Rock Around The Clock' by Bill Haley & His Comets. The days of jazz as the mainstay of American popular musical culture were numbered, and the mighty youthquake of rock & roll was ready to overpower everything. But for a moment, Crosby could still sing:

From the coast to the coast
Jazz is king
'Cause jazz is the thing
Folks dig most!

The film features Grace Kelly in her final role before jetting off to become Monaco's Princess Consort. She does a fine line in the mandatory trans-Atlantic accent that was required of many stars at the time, is charming both acting drunk and acting hung over, and is of course gifted with an astonishing natural beauty. Who could fail to fall in love with her? Well, her three (three!) suitors, Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and stick-in-the-mud fiancee John Lund certainly do. There's the standard rampantly comical and perhaps a little creepy age differences involved too, which were quite common in films of the time. Kelly was 26 during filming. Sinatra was 14 years older (at one point he is referred to as 'over 30', hmm!); Lund was about 18 years older; and Crosby a full 27 years older! That's an entire generation of difference. Mind you, in High Society Crosby also sings an (entirely innocent) love song to an 11-year-old girl. It was a different age.

See also:
Music - Iggy Pop & Deborah Harry - Well Did You Evah? (1990)
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