on March 25, 2002
The happy ending is clumsily tacked on and reeks "Hollywood" in the worst sense of the word. Otherwise this is another very good Michael Curtiz film with solid acting and great black and white cinematography. Kirk Douglas may surprise you as the obsessed jazzman, Rick Martin. Doris Day and Lauren Bacall are wonderful as the female leads (with Day being so definitively Day, and Bacall so quintessentially Bacall). Hoagy Carmichael is a remarkable screen presence as well. And the music is wonderful. So what's not to like?...well, the cornball ending and the (at times) stilted dialogue. Still well worth watching. And for jazz movie fans, fans of any or all of the stars or admirers of director Curtiz it remains a must have.
on January 21, 2000
This movie is great! For anyone who loves jazz, or enjoys a good film, I would recommend purchasing this movie. The soundtrack to this movie is just phenomenal.(Played by trumpet ace Harry James) This movie will keep your foot tapping while the splendor of Kirk Douglas captures your attention. This movie is said to be based on the life of jazz cornetist Bix Biederbecke. You will find it to be a great performance that you can not turn away from while you are shown the life of a boy who grows up and makes it big as a remarkable trumpeter.
on October 15, 2005
Yeah, it's pretty corny and about as cliche-ridden as they come, but the music is there and that's a very good thing. Kirk Douglas plays a young jazz trumpeter, based very loosly on the life of '20s cornetist and legend Bix Beiderbecke - a man in love with nothing but his horn (and booze) - until Doris Day turns him around. Lauren Bacall plays a vampire-type woman who takes out her own self-loathing on the world (and Douglas), but she does the only credible acting in the movie.
Hollywood has always simplified and cornballed the jazz world, rarely coming close to the reality of it, and this film is no exception. The happy ending is far-fetched and a real drag. Disappointing (but about as to be expected, everything considered). For jazz fans out there, Harry James was dubbed in playing the trumpet parts.
I was struck watching it this time around with how very much the racial politics of Dorothy Baker's roman a clef are present in Curtiz' version of the story. Well, as it happens the movie was written by Carl Foreman, the left-leaning screenwriter, soon to be blacklisted, who was responsible a few years earlier for HOME OF THE BRAVE, the first Hollywood film to delve seriously into the problems of the black soldier and vet, the film that made a star out of James Edwards.
In YOUNG MAN, white trumpeter Rick Martin's nightly pilgrimage to "GALBA'S" club is almost an obsession with him, obviously he is there to somehow suck up the black jazzmen's talent for improvisation and, for lack of a better word, you might call "soul." Every night he's there, for hours, after his own shift gets off at 1:00 a.m., and sometimes they invite him up with jam with them. It's during one of these late night sessions that he delivers a heart stopping, angel-sweet version of Richard Rodger's luscious "WITH A SONG IN MY HEART." He's framed in a black and white composition with lustrous grays glinting up and down the trumpet, courtesy of the insanely talented cinematographer Ted McCord, who did so many of the Warner Brothers noir-tinged features, everything from FLAMINGO ROAD to JUHNNY BELINDA. Juano Hernandez is the black jazz master Art Hazzard, who plays the hidden idol of both Kirk Douglas' and Doris Day's character. When they watch him play in the nightclub, a conventional set without his usual fire, the disappointment, bewilderment and realizations in their gaze show us so much about race relations in the USA in the quick-moving postwar era. Hernandez was on a roll in 1950, fresh from his triumph in Clarence Brown's INTRUDER IN THE DUST, this Curtiz film was but one of three movies he made this year! And soon, for Juano Hernandez too, the so-called "gray-list" would remove him from cinema screens for years to come: too uppity, too independent, too ethnic, too righteous. Check out his portrayal of Hazzard in this film, it is a corker.
YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN is a mood picture, and Kirk Douglas is up for the challenge. It's nearly a tone poem of difficult relations between humans--Kirk's guilt, Doris' sudden and embarrassing desire for him, Lauren Bacall's rich, affluent, smorgasbord sexual preference games. It has something for everyone, if you've got nothing to lose and the sky over your head has lost its stars.
on June 21, 2005
This is Douglas' picture most of the way with kudos being thrown to Doris Day for her talented acting and singing. The cinematography is perfect 40ish film noirish and the music is incredible. I wish I had access to the soundtrack!! This is one movie that did not disappoint me. Most fun scene to watch: Lauren Bacall as she breaks Kirk Douglas' 78 records!! Most Memorable song: Doris Day's version of "With a Song in My Heart" and the ending still packs a wallop! I won't give it away...you'll have to buy this fine video and see for yourself!
"Young Man with a Horn" is a biopic based on the life of Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931), a jazz cornetist, pianist, and composer. Beiderbecke was one of the major jazz figures of the 1920s, as well known as Louis Armstrong in his day. The film is based on a 1938 (first) novel by Dorothy Baker.
Top billed Kirk Douglas (1916) was an emerging star when this film was made. He had just been nominated for an Oscar for "Champion" (1949) and would get 2 more - "The Bad and the Beautiful" (1952) and "Lust for Life" (1957) and win the Golden Globe for "Lust for Life". His memorable roles include "Paths of Glory" (1957), "The Vikings" (1958), "Spartacus" (1960) and "Seven Days in May" (1964). He appears as #17 on the AFI list of Top 50 Screen Legends.
Douglas was always at home playing self-destructive characters ("Champion", "Two Weeks in Another Town") and he applies that same intensity in this film.
FWIW - Douglas' musical numbers were done by famed jazz musician Harry James.
Sexy Lauren Bacall (1924) gets second billing. Bacall made her sizzling film debut in "To Have and Have Not" (1944) and went on to co-star with Bogart in "The Big Sleep" (1946) and "Dark Passage" (1947). She was nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA for "The Mirror has Two Faces" (1996) and won the Golden Globe and SAG for that film. She had 3 Emmy nominations. I think she did her best acting in "The Shootist" (1976) for which she received a BAFTA nomination. Bacall plays Douglas's wife.
Cute as apple pie Doris Day (1924) is best known as a hit making singer and a TV host (1968-73), but she also did films and was nominated for an Oscar for "Pillow Talk" (1959). She made 30+ films, most of them musical comedies. At the time this film was made she was busy and appeared in 3 films in 1950 and 4 in 1951, usually as the second female lead (as she is in this film). Day plays Douglas' friend.
Day reported that she was unhappy making this film, because Douglas and Bacall were so friendly and because her own life as a band singer had been filled with pain. Unhappy or not, she manages to sing 3 great songs - "With a Song in my Heart", "The Very Thought of You", and "Too Marvelous for Words" and does a terrific job acting.
Irrepressible Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981) was a pianist, composer, singer, and actor, who knew the real Bix upon whom the film is based. His dozen film appearances include two Oscar nominations and 1 win ("Here Comes the Groom", 1951). He's probably best known for "Cricket", the piano player in "To Have and Have Not" (1944), a film that starred Lauren Bacall who stars in this film. Carmichael narrates the film and plays Douglas's long time friend.
The scene stealer in this film is Juano Hernandez (1896-1970) who plays the musician who first recognizes Douglas' talent as a child and takes him under his wing. His debut in "Intruder in the Dust" (1949) earned him a Golden Globe nomination.
Director Michael Curtiz (1886-1962) is best known for his 7 films with Errol Flynn. He was nominated for an Oscar for their first collaboration ("Captain Blood", 1935), and received 2 more nominations for films with Jimmy Cagney - "Angels with Dirty Faces"(1938) and "Yankee Doddle Dandy" (1941) - and one win for a film with Bogart ("Casablanca", 1942), one of eight they made together. Curtiz had a sense of humor about himself - he once declared "The next time I want an idiot to do this, I'll do it myself."
1950 was a good year for films with Oscars for "All About Eve" (Picture, Director, Supporting Actor), "Cyrano" (Actor) and "Born Yesterday" (Actress). The top grossers included "Cinderella", "King Solomon's Mines", "Annie Get Your Gun" and "Sunset Boulevard". Other notable films released in 1950 were - "The Asphalt Jungle", "Cheaper by the Dozen", "The Glass Menagerie", "Rashomon", "The Third Man", and "Twelve O'Clock High".
Biopics about musicians are common - "The Fabulous Dorseys" (1947), "The Great Caruso" (1951), "The Glenn Miller Story" (1954), "Lady Sings the Blues" (1972), "The Buddy Holly Story" (1978), "Amadeus" (1984), "La Bamba" (1987), "Bird" (1988), "The Doors" (1991), "What's Love Got to Do With It" (1993), "Selena" (1997), "Walk the Line" (1995), "Ray" (2004), and "I'm Not There" (2007).
This is certainly not one of the best musician biopics even done, and the choice (after a preview) to change the ending does subtract from the power of the film. That being said, it was a chance for Kirk Douglas to widen his reach and show that he was an effective actor, and a chance for Doris Day to show that she was an actress as well as a singer.
Bottom line - Jazz enthusiasts, fans of the actors, and fans of good biopics will enjoy this film.
on January 10, 2016
I came to this movie for Doris Day, but was mesmerized by Kirk Douglas' acting, and I couldn't take my eyes off Lauren Bacall.
Doris Day is so sweet, they must have invented the phrase "The girl next door" from her. She is so good looking and has such an innocent personality. Add the fact that she is a very talented singer, and what more could you ask for. Except that I definitely would have asked for different hair styles for her. Her hairdo, every one of them, were terrible in this film. Even though they were the style of the era, they weren't the only ones of those times. But they did do a good job in other ways to contrast her character with that of Bacall's. The two women were so different from each other, they were worlds apart, yet both were in Rick Martins world.
I haven't seen a Kirk Douglas movie in so long that I forgot how much I liked him. I don't know how accurately he portrayed the real muscian, but I liked how he handle this role. Douglas beemed with a humble, boyish attitude throughout the film, often wearing it on his face like it was real. The carefree attitude of the character was refreshing.
I didn't view Lauren Bacall as "pretty". I wasn't so sure she was even good looking. But her exotic looks were so intriguing I couldn't look away (Not to mention her voice). After staring at her for so long, I realized I was drawn to her. By halfway through the movie I was under her spell and knew she was good looking. It was now a toss up between her and Day; I could be happy with whatever side the coin landed on.
on August 26, 2012
As a trumpet player myself, one of my pet peeves are music movies that involve brass players. Primarily because I can't stand to watch actors fake playing an instrument when their "performance" clearly does not match the music! The first thing I noticed about this movie was that Douglas looks like he had a pretty good embouchure. His fingering doesn't always match the music, but then that would be a little knit-picky! Regardless if he could actually play the trumpet, the music was definitely fun to listen to.
The movie is entertaining and well acted. Douglas plays his role as a naive, idealistic musician who simply wants to play music for the sake of making music. His portrayal only changes when Bacall's character gets a hold of him. Bacall's icy character adds a near film noir mood to the film. Doris Day plays the wholesome "girl next door" which I guess was her schtick when it came to being in movies. Hoagy Carmichael is fun to watch. Who knew he could act! Who knew he smoked so much!!
Though somewhat of a cliche story line, Douglas' performance and the music make this an enjoyable and entertaining movie.
on January 27, 2000
Bix Beiderbecke was unquestionably one of the forerunners of so-called "hot jazz" that led to the golden era of this musical discipline. His career was short as was his life. This complex young man possessed a grand talent and was able, according to Hoagy Carmichael, to bring tears to those who were wedded to this new musical art form. Bix made his way from the Davenport, Iowa to places East, in the late 'teens of the century just passed. He had a significant impact on the evolution of "Chicago" jazz and his reputation was singular for the sweetness of his tone, and his ability to express what was in his soul.
His music peaked in the mid-to-late '20s, and he died from external excesses in 1931. His cornet was stilled, but his legend was vivid for many decades after he was gone. I would recommend reading the twin autobiographies (under a single cover) of Hoagy Carmichael both of which offer a sincere tribute to Bix and his impact on jazz without being smarmy.
The insinuation that the 1950 flic, "Young Man with a Horn", depicted Bix, just ain't so.
on August 3, 1999
1. Made in 1950, this movie shows one view of the racial divides in the 1920s and 1930s in America, and how they crossed in one particular domain: Jazz. (Apparently, this movie is based on a novel which combined multiple real life characters into several of its leading characters.)
2. I thought the acting was excellent. Especially, Lauren Bacall, but also Kirk Douglas, Hoagy Carmichael and Doris Day. This isn't the way I normally think of either Douglas or Day, and was impressed by how well they performed in their rolls.
3. I thought the movie had a message. Maybe a rather "sappy" message, but a good one, and delivered with conviction.