The Gene Krupa Story (1959)
Having appeared as himself in The Glenn Miller Story (1954) and The Benny Goodman Story (1956), it was only a matter of time before Gene Krupa was subjected to a biopic. Though he handled his acting duties admirably in those two films, the makers of this film learnt from the mistake of The Fabulous Dorseys (1947) and enlisted the services of a professional actor to portray the drummer. It would appear that all other lessons to be gleaned from the previous films were completely lost on them.
Going against his parent’s wishes, drum crazy Gene Krupa leaves the seminary and joins a jazz band. Together with trumpeter Eddie and nice girl Ethel, he heads off to New York to find fame and fortune. Yet when it finally arrives, Gene is unprepared for the accompanying temptations of wild parties, femme fatales and a touch of reefer madness. Soon the former priest-in-training finds himself behind bars, blacklisted and playing in strip-clubs.
Though the style in which Sal Mineo plays the drums may be a little disconcerting, a quick YouTube comparison with the real Gene Krupa reveals that he mimics the pioneering drummer quite well. Less forgivable is the jargon-laced dialogue, a godawful ballad and the laughable depiction of marijuana use. First encountered when a twitchy band member offers him ‘the tender weed’, Gene is later slipped a joint from bad girl Dorissa. Cue Twilight Zone music as Gene takes one puff, immediately gets sleepy-eyed and then shouts to everybody in the room “Nobody gets me at all!”
Salvation eventually arrives in the form of Tommy Dorsey, who thankfully doesn’t portray himself. That task went to actor Bobby Troup, who also played jazz pianist Arthur Schutt in the Red Nichols biopic The Five Pennies (1959). Troup was a jazz pianist himself, as well as a singer/songwriter, who compositions included ‘(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66’ and ‘My City of Sydney’. No word on his biopic though.
After Krupa joins Goodman’s band (which occurred in 1935) he is introduced to Bunny Berigan, Frank Trumbauer and Bix Biederbecke. Bix died in 1931.
Eddie Sirota and Dorissa Dinell are fictional characters.
"I thought the movie could have been better… I think they did it the way they thought I would have liked it to have been. But if they merely did it the way it was, it could have been a great picture."
No mention is made of Gene Krupa's appearances in film.