The Benny Goodman Story (1956). Biographical film. Cast: Steve Allen and Donna Reed, Director: Valentine Davies. This film is based on the life of clarinetist Benny Goodman, who recorded most of the clarinet solos used in the film. Lionel Hampton, Martha Tilton, Kid Ory, George Givot, Gene Krupa, and many other musicians have cameo appearances in this film. However, while Ziggy Elman performed on screen recreating his trumpet solo on "And the Angels Sing", he was unable to record his portion for the soundtrack; Manny Klein actually performed it, off-camera.
I just love biographical films. This story begins with Benny becoming an excellent clarinetist by the time he is fourteen. Benny grabs the first opportunity to play in a ragtime band, joins the musicians' union, and begins his career. He has the opportunity to listen to the "Kid", who tells him to play the way he feels and invites him to sit in. Benny joins the Ben Pollack band and plays at dances throughout the country. The Pollack band secures a job in the speakeasy of Benny's former neighbor, now gangster, Little Jake Primo. There he meets John Hammond, a music critic and his sister Alice, who prefers classical music.
Pollack's band flops in New York. Benny begins to worry that there is no audience for his kind of music and is forced to perform with more traditional dance bands. Still impressed with Benny's talent, Hammond invites him to perform a Mozart clarinet concerto before an audience in the Hammond mansion. Alice is surprised by "all this emotion comes pouring out" when he plays. Benny forms a band and begins to play on an NBC Saturday night radio program. Jazz musician Fletcher Henderson hears the program and is so impressed that he contributes arrangements for the band. After the show is canceled, Benny's orchestra goes on tour, but before he leaves, he and Alice declare their feelings for each other. The tour is a failure until the orchestra reaches Palomar, California, where the group is a huge success. Benny sees Alice in the audience and plays "Memories of You" for her. Benny forms a quartet that includes Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa, and by the time Benny, his orchestra, and his quartet return to Chicago, they are making headlines. Benny is booked into Carnegie Hall and worries that "a hall full of longhairs" will not like the orchestra's music, which features guest performers Harry James, Ziggy Elman and Martha Tilton.
Benny Goodman's band performed in many musicals: The Big Broadcast of 1937, Hollywood Hotel (1938), Syncopation (1942), The Powers Girl (1942), Stage Door Canteen (1943), The Gang's All Here (1943), Sweet and Lowdown (1944) and A Song Is Born (1948). Goodman's only starring feature was Sweet and Low Down (1944). Goodman's success story was told in the 1955 motion picture The Benny Goodman Story with Steve Allen and Donna Reed. It was a follow up to 1954's successful The Glenn Miller Story. The screenplay was heavily fictionalized, but the music was real. Many of Goodman's professional colleagues appear in the film, including Ben Pollack, Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton and Harry James.
This clip features Benny Goodman'a band playing "Sing Sing Sing", featuring Gene Krupa at the end. Also... Mr. Harry James plays a trumpet solo.