Rhapsody in Blue

Overview

There's slightly more fancy than fact in this lavish film biography of legendary American composer George Gershwin, but oh! That music! Director Irving Rapper had wanted Tyrone Power to play Gershwin, but Power was still serving in the Marines, so Rapper had to settle for Robert Alda--who isn't bad at all, just a trifle over-enthusiastic. The film traces Gershwin's rise from a "song plugger" for a Manhattan music publishing company to the heights of international fame and fortune. Gershwin's first big hit is ...
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DVD (Remastered / Pan & Scan)
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Overview

There's slightly more fancy than fact in this lavish film biography of legendary American composer George Gershwin, but oh! That music! Director Irving Rapper had wanted Tyrone Power to play Gershwin, but Power was still serving in the Marines, so Rapper had to settle for Robert Alda--who isn't bad at all, just a trifle over-enthusiastic. The film traces Gershwin's rise from a "song plugger" for a Manhattan music publishing company to the heights of international fame and fortune. Gershwin's first big hit is "Swanee," introduced on Broadway by Al Jolson who plays himself, making his first film appearance in six years. In collaboration with his lyricist brother Ira well played by Herbert Rudley, George pens hit after hit in show after show. Impresario Charles Coburn is happy with this, but George's kindly old music teacher Albert Basserman wants his prize pupil to aspire to something more artistic. Gershwin responds with "Rhapsody in Blue," which debuts at Aeolian Hall in 1924 under the baton of bandleader Paul Whiteman also playing himself. As his fame and workload grows, George finds he has no time at all for romance; the two fictional ladies in his life, both of whom eventually realize that they'll always have to play second fiddle to Gershwin's muse, are musical comedy star Joan Leslie and socialite Alexis Smith. Gershwin continues to compose such masterpieces as "An American in Paris," "Cuban Overture," "Concerto in F" and the 1935 folk opera Porgy and Bess. He will not allow himself to rest on his laurels, ruthlessly pushing himself to top all his previous accomplishments. Finally, the strain proves too great: George Gershwin dies of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1937, at the age of 39. Featured in the cast as themselves in addition to those already mentioned are Gershwin's lifelong friend Oscar Levant, producer George White, and Broadway performers Tom Patricola and Hazel Scott. Morris Carnovsky and Rosemary DeCamp play George's parents, while Julie Bishop is cast as Ira's wife Lee, who is saddled with the film's silliest line: "Ira, promise me that you'll never become a genius." Alternately hokey and inspired, "Rhapsody in Blue" has weathered the years as one of Hollywood's most solid biopics. And, as a bonus, we are treated to a virtually complete performance running a full reel of the title composition.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Some films, including Rhapsody in Blue succeed very much in spite of themselves. Rhapsody should by no means be as good as it is. Like so many other biopics of the period (and today), Rhapsody plays very fast and very loose with the facts and has very little value as biography. The screenplay is a string of clich├ęs, and filled with uninspired dialogue spouted by characters that, if not cardboard, are still not flesh-and-blood. And while Robert Alda has some of Gershwin's appeal, he doesn't give the kind of galvanizing performance that is required. And yet Rhapsody is still an enthralling film -- because of the music. The music is so powerful, so full of life, so full of the man who wrote it that one willingly waits through the predictable story, just so one can experience those glorious sounds. The performances of that music varies, although none of them are bad. Among the vocalists, Al Jolson, even though past his peak, and Hazel Scott win top honors, with Jolson tearing up the screen with "Swanee" and Scott simply sublime with "The Man I Love." Purists may quibble somewhat with the performance of the title concerto, as well as " An American in Paris" and "Concerto in F"; they're abridged, the orchestrations are not exactly as Gershwin envisioned, etc. But most will find them mesmerizing. The Porgy & Bess segment is a delight, and the "Blue Monday" suite will come as a surprise to many. Alda gets some fine support from Alexis Smith, and some lesser support from Joan Leslie, neither of whom has much of a part to play. And Oscar Levant is on hand to provide his unique brand of humor. Rhapsody has a few too many lulls, but as soon as the orchestra starts playing any of its songs, it comes to brilliant life.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 1/8/2012
  • UPC: 883316399781
  • Original Release: 1945
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Region Code: 0
  • Presentation: Remastered / Pan & Scan
  • Language: English
  • Time: 2:31:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 4,714

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert Alda George Gershwin
Joan Leslie Julie Adams
Alexis Smith Christine Gilbert
Charles Coburn Max Dreyfus
Julie Bishop Lee Gershwin
Oscar Levant Himself
Albert Basserman Prof. Frank
Morris Carnovsky Papa Gershwin
Rosemary de Camp Momma Gershwin
Al Jolson Himself
George White Himself
Hazel Scott Herself
Anne Brown Bess
Herbert Rudley Ira Gershwin
John B. Hughes Commentator
Mickey Roth George Gershwin as a boy
Darryl Hickman Ira Gershwin as a Boy
Charles Halton Mr. Kast
Andrew Tombes Mr. Milton
Gregory Golubeff Mr. Katzman
Walter Soderling Mr. Muscatel
Eddie Marr Buddy De Sylva
Theodore Von Eltz Foley
Bill Kennedy Herbert Stone
Robert Shayne Christine's Escort
Johnny Downs Dancer
Ernest Golm Otto Kahn
Martin Noble Jascha Heifetz
Will Wright Rachmaninoff
Eddie Cantor
Yola D'Avril Prima Donna
Claire Du Brey Receptionist
Ira Gershwin Herbert Rudley
William Gillespie Porgy
Rob Johnson Sport
Ivan Lebedeff Guest in Nightclub
Oscar Lorraine Ravel
Odette Myrtil Mme. De Breteuil
Jay Novello Orchestra Leader
Tom Patricola Himself
Paul Whiteman & Orch. Themselves
Frank Reicher
George Riley Comic
Christian Rub Swedish Janitor
Virginia Sale Cashier
Harry Seymour Piano Player
Mark Stevens Singer
Technical Credits
Irving Rapper Director
Milo Anderson Costumes/Costume Designer
Folmar Blangsted Editor
Irving Caesar Songwriter
Roy Davidson Special Effects
Ray Davidson Special Effects
Buddy G. DeSylva Songwriter
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
David Forrest Sound/Sound Designer
Arthur Frances Songwriter
Ira Gershwin Songwriter
Anton Grot Art Director
Ray Heindorf Score Composer
John Hughes Art Director
Stan Jones Sound/Sound Designer
Howard Koch Screenwriter
Jesse Lasky Producer
Sonya Levien Original Story
Ballard MacDonald Songwriter
Fred MacLean Set Decoration/Design
Elliot Paul Screenwriter
Sol Polito Cinematographer
LeRoy J. Prinz Choreography
Max Steiner Score Composer
Richard Van Enger Special Effects
Willard Van Enger Special Effects
Perc Westmore Makeup
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