Rhapsody in Blue (1945)

Rarely has a composer’s work been so magnificently presented on screen. It recreates the premier performance of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ almost in its entirety; Anne Brown reprises the role she created in ‘Porgy and Bess’ on a replica of the original set; Al Jolson performs ‘Swanee’, the song he introduced over 25 years before; Tom Patricola repeats the same feat with ‘Somebody Loves Me’, having a great time singing, dancing and playing his ukulele; Hazel Scott performs a medley of other Gershwin hits; and ‘An American in Paris’ is cleverly staged via Gershwin’s point-of-view as he strolls through the city. Unfortunately, the surrounding material is pedestrian.​

In his screen debut, Robert Alda fails to breathe life into George Gershwin. His flat recitation of dialogue and wooden acting are accentuated by first-rate performances from the supporting cast, with Oscar Levant and Charles Coburn being particularly noteworthy. Not that Alda is helped much by a screenplay that, despite a strong opening, drags once this American reaches Paris. There he becomes romantically involved with a fictional artist, which upsets his equally fictitious girl back home. After this fictional love-triangle is sorted out, Gershwin spends the rest of his time in a perpetual rush. Despite this, the movie still takes its sweet time getting to its inevitable conclusion.

 

There is a running joke throughout this film in which Gershwin’s father equates the quality of his son’s compositions with their length. The makers of this biopic appear to be under the same misapprehension.

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The women in Gershwin’s life, Julie Adams (Joan Leslie) and Christine Gilbert (Alexis Smith), are both fictional characters.

Gershwin’s music teacher, Professor Franck, is a fictional character.

Ira Gershwin was not George’s only sibling. He also had a younger brother and sister, Arthur and Frances.

"Even the lies about Gershwin were being distorted."

Oscar Levant

Though there is a reference to Gershwin working on a film score towards the end of his life, this biopic contains no scene recreations.

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