14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Impressive Parable of Race Relations in the USA,
This review is from: Young Man With a Horn (DVD)
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.