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The Benny Goodman Story (1955)

Steve Allen , Donna Reed , Valentine Davies  |  VHS Tape
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)

Price: $19.95 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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The Benny Goodman Story + The Glenn Miller Story [VHS]
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Product Details

  • Actors: Steve Allen, Donna Reed
  • Directors: Valentine Davies
  • Format: Color, Dolby, HiFi Sound
  • Language: English
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: MCA Home Video
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ZPIGTM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,884 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

The music of Benny Goodman comes to life in this wonderful musical biography of the famed King of Swag.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The music is better than the "history" in this bio-pic November 20, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
The consensus has long been that "The Benny Goodman Story" has problems when it comes to being historically accurate but the music is absolutely great. Steve Allen plays Goodman in such a low-keyed manner it is hard to reconcile this with the jovial host of "The Tonight Show." Donna Reed plays love interest Alice Hammond, who is quicker to fall for Benny than she is for his music. It seems Alice is a society gal, who tags along with her brother John (Herbert Anderson) from time to time when he hits the jazz clubs. But when John invites Benny to play a Mozart clarinet concerto at their home for the society crowd, Alice is convinced Benny is going to be humiliated. Instead, it is Alice who has her eyes opened, especially after meeting the wonderful Dora Goodman (Berta Gersten), who wishes her husband was still alive to hear their son play "good" music. The other wonderful scene is when Goodman's band is going down for the last time and he decides they might as well go out playing HIS kind of music. As the band plays on he is stunned to see the kids are just standing and LISTENING to his music rather than dancing. The rest is history, or at least the Hollywood version of history. Gene Krupa,Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Sammy Davis Sr. are some of the jazz greats who appear as themselves in this film. Barry Truex plays Goodman at age 16 and actually does a fantastic job of playing Steve Allen at 16, because there is no problem seeing than as the same person a decade apart. The film climaxes with his landmark Carnegie Hall band concert in 1938. Along the way there is the great music: "Let's Dance, "Stompin' At The Savoy," "One O'Clock Jump," "Moonglow," "Sing Sing Sing (With A Swing)" and the proverbial much much more. The obvious double-feature with "The Benny Goodman Story" would be "The Glenn Miller Story," in that order if you want to do the history right.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice but inaccurate story, GREAT music July 23, 2004
Format:DVD
This film actually got me going as a BG fan, 20 years ago on the TV late show. I've been collecting BG recordings, books, and etc. ever since.

As previous reviewers have said, there are many inaccuracies in the story, the acting is a bit lifeless, but the music is great.

I do want to say that with all the inaccuracies, the film does a good job of conveying the feeling of Benny's beginnings and rise to the top. And one should remember that this was Steve Allen's first major acting role, and in that light, he does a commendable job as the frustrated but driven Goodman.

The movie is well worth buying just for watching the musicians perform the music as you hear it. The soundtrack CD gives complete versions of all the songs, but the visual performance adds a lot. It is a must to point out that Benny himself is playing all the clarinet from off camera. Allen does a good job of looking believable as he fakes playing. I understand it was his idea to take several hours of training from actual players, including Benny. Allen was already an accomplished jazz pianist and composer.

Other reviewers have mentioned Ross Firestone's 'Swing, Swing, Swing' as a good biography of BG. I find James Lincoln Collier's 'Benny Goodman And The Swing Era' to be a much more accurate and detailed bio for the serious fan.

Even if you're new to this kind of music, buy the movie, sit back, and enjoy! I can almost guarantee you'll want more of Goodman's music by the end of the film.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thanks for the music October 30, 2003
By A Customer
Format:DVD
The value of this film lies not in the story but the music. The story is filled with flaws including the Carnegie Hall concert. However, there are some versions of the musical material on the soundtrack that surpasses many of the studio recorded versions available today. "One O'Clock Jump, Stompin' at the Savoy," and "Bugle Call Rag" are three that come to mind. This is where the film shines, in the musical presentation.
As one of the other reviewers stated, if you want to learn about the life of Benny Goodman, get a copy of "Swing, Swing, Swing: The Life and Times of Benny Goodman." Next get a copy of the Carnegie Hall concert and listen. The recording is noisy, but the music is amazing. Furthermore, this event elevated Jazz from popular music to an artform. 1 star for the acting and 5 stars for the music.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GOOD ENOUGH TO KEEP (AIRMAIL very SPECIAL) January 28, 2005
By andoy A
Format:VHS Tape
VHS or DVD: The Benny Goodman Story. A tearjerker, the life of one of Americas' outstanding musical artists. You can see ALL the original artists, as (then) sidemen/women performing with the Benny Goodman Trio, Quartet, and full Orchestra. Steve Allen portrays Benny pretty darn well. There's even sceans from the 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert. An American Classic! EVERYBODY should be so fortunate to view this 5-star production!

A wonderful way to introduce the youngsters to 'GOOD MUSIC!'

Andrew A! Honolulu, Hawaii
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The King Of Swing Deserves Better Than This March 15, 2003
Format:DVD
"The Benny Goodman Story" is a movie that is comparable to "The Babe Ruth Story"--a watered-down, fictionaliized Hollywood version of the life of an authentic American original. While some of the scenes are factually correct, they are diluted by the silly love story. While a guest on the Merv Griffin Show in the 1970s, Goodman's own reflection on the film was "Every time my wife and I see it, we laugh like Hell!"
The movie is not without its merits, however. The real value of the film is to the young aspiring musician who might have only heard of Goodman in passing. It provides a young person to be introduced to the personages of Ben Pollack, Fletcher Henderson, and to get a mere glimpse of what the Original Benny Goodman Orchestra sounded like. Just as valuable is the chance to see Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton on the screen, and to hear them perform with Goodman himself on the sountrack. Even in 1955, 20 years after the Goodman trio and quartet were in their heyday, their music is as timeless as ever. Hopefully, the experience will be enough to get the aspirant to pursue the real "Benny Goodman Story" via countless good historical CDs and biographies.
One last note--whoever designed the DVD cover obviously is not a student of the clarinet, as the picture of Steve Allen is backwards!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
LOVED THE MUSIC
Published 1 day ago by Dennis Kloosterman
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great movie, great music. Am a great fan of Steve Allen.
Published 3 days ago by Arlys Murphy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great Product & Great Price & Very Fast Shipping!!
Published 24 days ago by Douglas L.
5.0 out of 5 stars Good "oldie"...
Nice older movie (the kind I love). I believe Steve Allen played the clarinet, but in the movie, he was definitely not "play-sinking" very well in many spots--time after... Read more
Published 1 month ago by M. Cooper
3.0 out of 5 stars great movie
The movie was great once I had copied it to play on region 4 don't Amazon do region 4 dvd's anymore
Published 1 month ago by Mr. Warren G. Nichols
5.0 out of 5 stars Good old movie
Good old movie I dreaned of since soooooo long ago.

If you like the story of this kind of «Big Band» you need it
Published 1 month ago by Marc
5.0 out of 5 stars Ma loves it.
Ordered this for mother, as it is one of her favorite movies. It may be hard to find in the future, so I got her a new copy in VHS her favorite format.
Published 3 months ago by lesmoore2204
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Vicinio's review.
I had purchased this item for my elderly mother. She loved it and used it often. As per my mother, it is great.
Published 3 months ago by Peter Vicinio
4.0 out of 5 stars I Love Classics
Love this classic movie. It is not shown on TV that often and now I can reach for it at any time. Thanks
Published 3 months ago by Joe Ann McQuaige
5.0 out of 5 stars Musical History
Although a little embellished, excellent depiction of one of our greatest musicians. Probably one of Steve Allen's greatest works. Again, very happy to have in my library.
Published 4 months ago by T C
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