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Pete Kelly's Blues

4.3 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

A Kansas City singer and his jazz band bow down to pressure from a local gangster and take on the thug's alcoholic girlfriend as a singer.

Special Features

  • Oscar-nominated short Gadgets Galore
  • Classic cartoon The Hole Idea

Product Details

  • Actors: Jack Webb, Janet Leigh, Andy Devine, Herbert Ellis, Nick Fatool
  • Directors: Jack Webb
  • Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: July 22, 2008
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JL2Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,268 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Pete Kelly's Blues" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Albrecht on July 23, 2004
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
Jack Webb loved jazz and the jazz age. That comes through loud and clear in Pete Kelly's Blues. I liked this movie immensely because it's a labor of love. Despite it's flaws (Jack Webb tends to be stiff at times) the movie works and works well. Meticulous attention to detail, Peggy Lee in a dramatic role as well as her glorious singing, Andy Devine as a cop along with the great Ella Fitzgerald and some of the best jazz music ever recorded plus a strong supporting cast, make this movie well worth savoring again and again.

Charles Albrecht
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Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
I've loved this movie since it's release. Peggy Lee is the greatest lady pop/jazz singer of the mid 20th Century, and she gets into the 1920's mode as if it were a svelte gown. Her renditions are immaculate, as we always expect them to be, but less expected is her portrayal of the exploited artist in the speakeasies. She chews up the scenery, and stands tastefully right in between Jack Webb's unemotiveness and Edmund O'Brien's ham. An interesting contrast movie of about the same year which allows O'Brien to roast his ham with color is "The Girl Can't Help It", a rock and roll movie starring Jane Mansfield, and featuring the entertainers of the hour, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, et alia. The cast of "Pete Kelly's Blues" also includes young Lee Marvin and Martin Milner as sidemen in Pete Kelly's band. The best song in the flick is the cameo by Ella Fitzgerald, of whom we would wish to see and hear more, if only her part was bigger in the script. A nice evocation and snapshot, if symbolic, of the world of Bix and Bing, Ruth Etting and Moe the Gimp.
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Format: Blu-ray
Jack Webb had a lifelong passion for jazz music and for years wanted to bring that passion to the big screen. He finally got the chance in 1955 when Warner Brothers let Webb use his own production company(Mark VII) film an adaptation his radio series "Pete Kelly's Blues" but insisted that it be filmed in Cinemascope to compete with Fox's "Oklahoma" which was being released the same year. However, what may have sounded good on the radio did not always translate that well on the big screen. Jazz music is a more intimate experience more suited on film like Martin Ritt's "Paris Blues"(1961) than a big Cinemascope roadshow film. After watching Warner's excellent new Blu-ray of "Pete Kelly's Blues" it's easy to see where Webb's film comes up short. The problem is that Webb plays Pete Kelly in the same wooden dead-pan way he did his most famous character, Sgt. Joe Friday, in the long running TV series "Dragnet". If this weren't bad enough, he adds a voice-over narration and directs the film more like a TV show which is not the way you want to film a big Cinemascope picture. Those negatives aside, Webb should be commended for his direction of the many musical numbers during the film which now look and sound just exceptional on Blu-ray. There are no vertical lines, torn frames, dirt or white specks anywhere to be found. Filmed in Warnercolor(with a print by Technicolor), "Pete Kelly's Blues" has probably never looked this good since it's opening release nearly sixty years ago. Warner's has given the film a high bitrate(34.99) and colors just pop off the screen with reds and blues being the most prominent. Webb chose the great cinematographer Harold Rosson("The Wizard of Oz" & "Singin' in the Rain") to photograph "Pete Kelly's Blues" and the results are very impressive.Read more ›
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Given that this has already been remastered in letterbox/stereo for Laserdisc, why isn't this available on DVD? Webb loved 20s jazz and that is reflected in the terrific soundtrack and meticulous attention to period detail in every frame (wonderful Cinemascope production design!). Ella sings as only she can and acts as only she couldn't; Peggy Lee's heartbreaking performance as a torch singer on the skids was rightfully nominated for an Oscar (and oh yeah - "she sings"). This was one of the ten top-grossers of 1955, just behind "East of Eden," and its not available ten years into the DVD era?!
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Format: VHS Tape
Jack's the greatest. If you are not an American, Jack's your American icon, circa 1955. And you can't really argue with his friends Peggy Lee, Ella, and Miff Mole (it's his band that's featured). Other viewers and critics remark upon the versimiltude, but this misses the point; Jack captures the jazz myth. I don't care if this is the way it was; it's enough--more than enough--that this is the way I imagined it was. Jack reached into my imagination and put a part of it on screen. Wow-ow!
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Format: DVD
I had never heard of this film before, but I knew I wanted a DVD copy of "Blues in the Night", so I went ahead and ordered this one too. I had been hearing the rumors that it was fullscreen, but when I saw it advertised on TCM they showed a widescreen clip, so I took a chance.

Rest assured, it is indeed widescreen. It sounds great, and it looks great with a couple of numbers by Ella Fitzgerald. However, this is not anything close to a musical. Rather it is a 20's gangster tale that involves Pete Kelly (Jack Webb) and his band. For those of you who remember Dragnet, Webb's narration might have you thinking of Dragnet just a little too much. Webb also directed this film, and he did a great job of giving it a real 20's feel. You don't feel like you're looking at a bunch of people from the 50's dressed up for a 20's costume party.

The only thing bad I can say about it is I had a hard time figuring out Pete Kelly's motivation. A person close to him is killed, and he is ready to give in to the gangster responsible and forget the whole thing ever happened. He finds out another person he barely knows has been killed by the same gangster and he's ready for war. He tosses an eager and beautiful Janet Leigh out of his room in one scene, and in the next scene he's overjoyed to see her to the point of wanting to marry her. The clinical acting style that worked so well for Webb in Dragnet just left me a little confused here. Still, overall, I would recommend it.
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