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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars classic Bing Crosby vehicle--even with a problem or two (three and one-half stars), March 22, 2008
By 
Matthew G. Sherwin (last seen screaming at Amazon customer service) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Birth of the Blues [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Birth Of The Blues is a musical vehicle for the great Bing Crosby. Sure, some of this plot may be rather fictionalized; but that's not what really matters. You watch this film for the song and dance numbers. The convincing acting held my attention all the way; and the plot moves along at a good pace.

When the action starts, a young Jeff Lambert is getting the spanking of his life from his father--for being caught playing jazz. However, this has little effect on Jeff--he grows up to want to have the first all white Dixieland jazz band. He and his musician buddies soon meet up with a sharp coronet player named Memphis (Brian Donlevy) and just by chance they bump into a young lady named Betty Lou Cobb (Mary Martin) who has a great singing voice.

Guess what, folks? You're right--Memphis and Betty Lou soon join the band and after a few flops things begin to take off for Jeff and his crew. They get their first big break at a club run by a thug boss named Blackie (J. Carrol Naish) who doesn't feel like letting them go to a more profitable job. Blackie has his "boys" trying as hard as they can to keep Jeff, Betty Lou and the gang all playing at his nightclub and his nightclub only.

What happens next? Will Jeff and the gang ever get away from Blackie? What about Betty Lou--both Jeff and Memphis want her hand in marriage; but of course she can only marry one of them. Which man will Betty Lou choose? There's also a cute little girl who is referred to as Betty Lou's "Aunt Phoebe;" look for a great performance by Carolyn Lee in this role.

The cinematography works well in crowd scenes like the nightclubs and the choreography shines in complicated fight scenes and scenes with crowds of people on the set.

Overall, this is a good movie musical that will charm fans of Bing Crosby and Mary Martin in particular. It's not the best musical from the golden age of Hollywood--the dialogue weighs it down a bit and there are offensive references to African-Americans. This will therefore be a three and one-half star review.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars MARY MARTIN AND DER BINGLE, November 11, 2001
This review is from: Birth of the Blues [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The purpose of Paramount's BIRTH OF THE BLUES was to show the orgins of American jazz in New Orleans. It briefly introduced a black band patterned after the historic Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band that used to serenade the pleasure palaces of Basin Street. Then it dwells at length on Bing's efforts to organise his own eight-piece outfit, patterned after the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, which was one of the first white bands to play in respectable quarters. Historically, this is all too sketchy to be important, but musically, the picture is tops. A highlight is Crosby's lantern-slide rendition of BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON. This wasn't the first time that Paramount's president, Barney Balaban regaled his public with lantern-slide songs. In 1913, when Balaban built the little Kedzie Theatre in Chicago, first of his nationwide chain, his brother and sister played violin and piano accompaniments to such slides while Barney collected dimes at the door. As a partner for Crosby, Paramount again recruited Mary Martin; she never looked better than she did here and her singing is great - they made a crack musical team. Jack Teagarden's band did the instrumentals in this frolic from 1941.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun fictionalization of the history of New Orleans jazz, January 2, 2003
This review is from: Birth of the Blues [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Bing Crosby and Jack Teagarden lead the Basin Street Hot Shots, the (fictional) first all-white jazz band in New Orleans. Goofy and slow in parts, but god clean fun. Lots of weird racial stuff -- it's worth it, though, just to hear Mary Martin say, "I want to learn to sing like the colored folk." This is a fairly starry-eyed reading of the history of jazz, cleaned up a bit for a mainstream audience, but definitely with the best of intentions. Good clean fun, and a nice chance to see one of the best jazz musicians -- Teagarden -- strutting his stuff alongside one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, Der Bingle himself.
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Birth of the Blues [VHS]
Birth of the Blues [VHS] by Victor Schertzinger (VHS Tape - 1995)
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