Syncopation (1942) - full transcript

Covering a quarter-century of American 'syncopated" music (Ragtime, Jazz, Swing, Blues, Boogie Woogie)from prior to WWI through prohibition, the stock-market crash, the depression and the outbreak of WWII. A romance between singer Kit Latimer, from New Orleans, and Johnny Schumacher, in which they share and argue over musical ideas ensues. Prior to the making of the film RKO held a contest for the readers of 'The Saturday Evening Post" to vote on the musicians to make up the All-American Dance Band featured in the film; the magazine's readers chose, in the above-the-title listing: Charlie Barnet, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Jack Jenney. Gene Krupa, Alvino Rey, Joe Venuti, and singer Connee Boswell.

(rhythmic drumbeat)

(rapid drumbeat)

(speaking native language)


(cornet playing)

Class dismissed,
all except Reginald Tearbone.

Reginald, what am I
going to do about you?

You're better
on that horn of yours

than anyone we've ever had.

But when it comes to reading...

Mr. Pecolm,

music on paper don't
mean nothing to me.

Well, I'm afraid you're
wasting your time here.

You mustn't
feel ashamed, Reggie.

I ain't exactly ashamed.

Is just thinking how I was
gonna tell my mammy, Ella.

She wants me to be a teacher.

Well, would you like me
to break the news to her

kinda gentle like?

Nobody breaks no news
to my mammy gently like.

I'll tell her myself,
slow and easy.

- Hello, Ella.
- Hello. Nothing today?


I say there, is this the home

of Mr. Latimer,
the architect?

- Sure is, sir.
- Is he in?

He is and he ain't.
Is you a bill collector?

No, I'm just an old friend from Chicago.

He's in.

(piano playing)

Sorry, Mr. George,

you've got some
foreigners from Chicago.

Be with you in a second, Ella.

Beautiful, my dear.

- Now, if you'll excuse me.
- You are excused.

Hello, George.
Well, Steve Porter, how are you?

I'm certainly glad to see you.

Hello, Paul.
You certainly have grown.

Why, I remember when
you couldn't even walk.

Well, Steve, how's Chicago?

What are you doing
in New Orleans?

Staying for dinner, of course.

Thanks, George, we'd like to.

Darling, this is my friend
Mr. Porter, his son, Paul.

This is my daughter, Kit.

How do you do, sir?
How do you do, Paul?

How do you do?

- Do you play the piano?
- Uh-huh.

Would you like to hear me play
some real New Orleans music?

Well, I don't mind.

(playing piano)

It's very nice, I like it.

- You like that?
- Very much.

Well, come with me.

I'll show you
something much better.

- I've been working on some new ideas.
- You stay here, Paul.

(piano continues)

- Don't you like music?
- It's just a lot of noise.

It is not.

I've got some Sherry...

Mr. George, can I
see you a moment?

- Yes, Ella. Excuse me.
- Certainly.

Well, what is it,
what is it, what is it?

Mr. George,
is I to understand

we gonna have guests tonight?
- That's right, Ella.

What would you like for dinner?

- Surprise me.
- I'll surprise you right now.

Mr. Jack says he won't let us
charge no more groceries.

Ella, from this moment on,

I forbid you to patronise
Mr. Jack's establishment.

Go somewhere else
and open a charge account.

- Word gets around awful fast in this here town.
- Then pay cash.

That's the whole idea

I've been trying
to convey to ya.

That's what I call
real Southern hospitality.

You serve a marvellous dinner,

and your neighbour supplied the
music, it's wonderful.

Oh, those European waltzes,
I don't care for them.


how about some real
New Orleans music?

I'd love to.

Come, Paul.

- No! I don't wanna hear any New Orleans music.
- Paul!

Steve, let's have a cognac.

Thanks, I'd love it.

Well, George, what
about coming to Chicago?


What would I do
in Chicago, pick pockets?

(chuckling) Well, you could start
off by building a house for me.

- Yes, and then what?
- And then, you know,

as the head of one of Chicago's
biggest investment firms,

I could help you a great deal.

Thanks, Steve.

I like it here.

You'd like it in Chicago, too.

Let me show you something.

There's New Orleans,

reckless daughter
of the Mississippi.

By day, she looks no
different than other towns.

At night, she suddenly
springs to life.

It's a rough,
old, charming town.

And she's been
battered and bruised,

praised and damned
by the scum of the land

and the flower of the earth.

Her streets have been
sprinkled with the blood

of saints and sinners.

Every night she dies
like an old man,

only to be born each morning

a husky, laughing baby

built on mud...
sand and mud.

But, beneath it all,
she's got a foundation

that's solid and strong enough

to build up to the stars.

A heart that beats with life.

That's very nice for a poet,

but not very profitable
for your business.


Business, business, business.

Steve, my family hasn't been
tainted by a businessman

since Louis Napoleon.

If you don't care for yourself,
George, that's quite all right,

but you should think of Kit.


She has no mother.

Excuse me,
Mr. George,

anything else
before I go to church?

No, Ella, uh, by the way,
how is the Reverend

getting along with his collection?
- Fine, Mr. George.

I designed the little church
for these people.

And you'll wait
for the collections?

Yes, and tonight
we's called on the Lord

to come down and loosen
some of them tight pockets.

And the Lord gonna do it, too.

Yes, sir, tonight's the night.

Me and the Reverend
and the Lord got a little scheme

and we gonna bust them
skinflints wide open.

And I'm gonna practise
to this here ol' horn.

Blow them stars
right out of the sky.

When you get ready
to pop them stars out, Reggie,

get that fair one for me.

She's got a mighty mean
bad luck gleam in her eye,

but I'll get it for ya.

- No matter how long it takes, I'll get it.
- Reggie!

- Come along.
- Where are you going, Ella?

I'm gonna put a little religion
in some of these heathens.

Where are you going
with that ladder, Reggie?

Shh, that's a secret.

Come on, we'll follow him.

(overlapping praying)

That King Jeffers,

when he oughta be here
playing Angel Gabriel,

he's possibly down
in some low dive

playin' that horn of his'n,
tempting deceit.

Perish your words, Reverend,

I figured that sinner
might go astray,

so I brought my Reggie
to blow his horn.

Blowing a horn like Gabriel

ain't no easy job
for a little boy.

Hurry up and blow
your horn, Reggie.

Now, children,
for that special messenger,

we is waitin'.

Yes, we's waitin'.

We is waitin'.

We is waitin'.

Yes, indeed, children.
(all exclaiming)

Children, we is waitin'!
(all shouting)

What is it, Reggie?
What is it?

Why don't you start?

I gotta find my mouthpiece.

We is waitin'!

(all gasping)

Come right through
the roof, angel.

I'll pay for the damage.

(cornet playing, humming)

♪ Oh, won't you blow
your trumpet, Gabriel ♪


♪ Blow your trumpet, Gabriel ♪

♪ Blow your trumpet louder ♪

(singing continues)

(cornet playing)

(cornet playing)

What's your name, son?

Reginald Tearbone,
Mr. Jefferson.

King Jeffers, boy, King Jeffers.

Yes, sir, King Jeffers, sir.

How'd you like
to play in my band?

You mean play with you
at the Mississippi Cafe?

That's just what I mean, boy.

I'm with you, King.


(piano playing)

(shoes shuffling)


Hey, where are you taking him?

Home, I don't want
no son of mine

playing in a place like this.
- And why not?

I want him to study music
like the white folks do.

Listen, Ella,

Reggie got something

that no teacher
can give no one, no how.

Every once in a great while,

the Lord takes
a tiny little spark

and drops it inside of someone.

That spark can be snuffed out...
(snaps fingers)

one, two, three...

but if you leave it alone,

it can grow

into a great, big ball of fire,

just-a burnin' so bright,

just-a givin' off such big heat

that after the man die,

folks can still sit around
that fire and keep warm.

Let Reggie be with me

and I'll watch over
that spark of his.

All right, King Jeffers,

if you say so,
I'll leave him with ya.

(music blaring)

(frogs croaking)

I don't wanna go, I wanna stay.

No, no, we'll come back
some day, Kit, you and I.

This isn't good-bye
to New Orleans.

We're just going
on a little trip.

Now, it's time to go to sleep.

No, the street lamp
is still burning.

I always wait for it to go out.

Ol' Ned must be late again.

Maybe he's tired.

He has so many lamps to put out,

a dog follows him around.

Whenever he puts out a light,

the dog barks like
it's afraid of the dark.

I'm afraid of the dark, too.

Now, you're going to sleep.

Good night, dear.

Now, don't go to sleep
with tears in your eyes.

(snorting) I don't wanna
go to Chicago, Ella.

Ah, brighten up, child.

Don't fret just
'cause we's going away.

Soon as we get up north,

your daddy gonna make
hisself plenty of money,

and we gonna ride that boat
back home again.

Now, say your prayers.


♪ Right up the river ♪

♪ Chicago's
the place they say ♪

♪ But the same boat
that takes us ♪

♪ Can bring us back
some day ♪

♪ You'll find the children ♪

♪ They play the same up there ♪

♪ Ooh ♪♪


Ella, if you feel sorry
that we left Reggie behind,

we can still send for him
when we get to Chicago.

Oh, no, Mr. George.

You see, Reggie's got a spark,

and King Jeffers say he
lose it if he leave New Orleans.

Well, we mustn't
let that happen.






(knocking on door)

(George) Oh, Kit?

How's my birthday child?

Glad to see you smile again.

Do you like my new record?

Sounds like New Orleans.

It is, Paul gave it to me.

That's what they
dance to now in the South.

New Orleans.

We should never have left there.

Paul, did you reserve our table?

- Yes, I did, Dad.
- Thanks.

- Here they come.
- Good, at last.

Kit, you look lovely.

- Steve.
- George.

Here's to, uh, to...

(exhales) I knew it
just a minute ago.

I said it a hundred
times this morning,

at noon, and now it's all gone.

Kiss her.

- Happy birthday, Kit.
- Happy birthday, Kit.

Many happy returns,
darling, and all that.

Make your wish, honey.

(Ella crying)
Ella, don't.

Ella, stop it.

Oh, please, Ella, don't.

Oh, child, today
you is a big gal, you is.

I'm still your
little girl, Ella.

Oh, you is.

Here, Kit, from Porter and Son.

Thanks, Mr. Porter and Son.

I admit it's more or less
of a bribe because,

you know, we... I've already told her
about our business engagement for tonight.

Well, then let's go.

Can't we take Kit along?

Now, you know a nightclub
is no place for a girl, Paul.

Good night, dear.

Dad, do you really need me?

Paul, I want you to meet
the Huggins brothers.

It's an important contact.

But it's Kit's birthday.

Business before
pleasure, my boy.

I'm sorry to break up
your party, my dear.

Business before pleasure.

Good night, dear.

- Can't you stay?
- I won't be late.


Oh, those Huggins brothers.

Whenever they come in,
they expect to be dragged

through every nightclub in town.

That's what you get
for being a businessman.

I refuse to be called
a businessman.

I'm the new efficiency expert
of Porter Incorporated.

- I hope it's important as it sounds.
- It is.

Mr. Porter, your father
says he's waiting for ya.



if you stay, I'll play you some
real nice New Orleans music.

(piano playing)

Paul, we're waiting
for you downstairs.

(Ella humming)


- All I have is this ring.
- I'm not a thief.

What do you want?

I just wanted to see your face.



Can I go now?

- Sure.
- Thank you.

Forget it.

- Where to, lady?
- I... I was just walking.

Babes who walk
the street at night

usually have a place
they call home.

I have a home, a beautiful home.

Come along, then,
I'll take you there.

But... but really, I was just...

Let her go, Murph.

She's my girl.

- Oh, it's you, huh?
- Yes, it's me.

- Come on.
- Just a minute.

Beat it, will ya, Murph?

Can't you see we're in love?

She lives in a beautiful home

with Persian rugs
and satin drapes.

That's true, that's all true.

Birds of a feather, huh?

Poor Murph, he's lost
all faith in fairy tales.

Where can I find a taxi?

I'll show you.

(piano playing)

- Do you live around here?
- Mm-hmm.

Over there where I was
sitting when you passed.

Do you always scare people
who pass by your house?

- Not much else to do.
- Don't you work?

Only on Saturday nights.

- What do you do?
- I'm a trumpet player.

- In a band?
- Mm-hmm, a high school band.

After graduation,
we couldn't get jobs,

so we figured we might
as well stick together

and try and pick up a few
bucks on Saturday nights.

You know, dances and stuff.

I play piano.

- Oh, where do you work?
- I don't.

Tough, huh?

What do you do that for?

Well, to pick out
the beautiful things.




I never thought of that.

Where's the music coming from?

- You like that?
- Uh-huh.

That's Smiley Jackson,
a friend of mine.

- Big vaudeville man.
- Must be some party.

- Come on.
- Can we go there?

- Got a dime?
- Sure.

- You're in.
- What's the dime for?

Jackson has to pay his rent.



- Hiya, Smiley.
- Hi.

Mr. Jackson,
meet Kit Latimer.

Mm, hi, cutie.

How do you do,
Mr. Jackson?

Mama, probably
just call me Smiley.

Move over, sister.

Here, have one of my photos.

Just paste it on your mirror,
all the girls are doing it.

Say, cutie, uh,
how do you look in tights? (giggling)

- She's not in show business.
- Oh, too bad.

I got a marvellous spot in
my show for a girl in tights.

How about a little nourishment?

I wouldn't mind.

Yeah, the hors d'oeuvres
are terrific.

Smiley, you'll get
a crick in your neck.

It's worth it.

♪ You made me love you ♪

♪ I didn't wanna do it,
I didn't wanna do it ♪

♪ You made me want you ♪

♪ And all the time you knew it,
I guess you always knew it ♪

♪ You made me,
oh, so happy ♪

♪ You made me glad ♪

♪ But there were times, dear,
you made me feel so sad ♪

♪ You made me sigh for ♪

♪ I didn't wanna tell you,
I didn't wanna tell you ♪

♪ I want some love,
that's true ♪

♪ Yes, I do, indeed,
I do, you know I do ♪

♪ So gimme, gimme, gimme,
gimme what I die for ♪

♪ You know you got the kind
of kiss that I die for ♪

♪ You know you
made me love you ♪♪

Hey, help me up there.

(all shouting)

(banging continues)

I've never been anywhere
like this before.

I never even knew it was here.

- Well, that's Chicago.
- Chicago.

It's you and me.

"Oh I see, flashing,

"that this America
is only you and me.

"Freedom, language,

"poems, employments,

"are you and me.

"Past, present, future,

are you and me."

- Walt Whitman, isn't it?
- Yeah.

He's my favourite poet, too.

(chattering, whistling)

What's that you're
whistling, Mr. Jackson?

Oh, just a little thing I cooked
up in the bathtub this morning.

- I've heard it before.
- Now, can you beat that?

Ain't it criminal these days
the way they steal things

before you can get
'em down on paper?

It seems to me I've heard
that tune years ago.

Well, look, cutie, just between
you and me and the lamppost,

I picked it up on
a Mississippi River boat

from a boot black boy.

They play it slow in Memphis,

they sing it blue
in St. Louis.

But up here in the windy city,
we just give it a needle

and rock it back to life
with that ol' razzmatazz.

It's still New Orleans,
I'll show you.

(piano playing)

(chattering stops)

Listen to it. Listen.

Come on, we have work to do.

(laughing, gavel banging)

Order! Order!

Order in the court!

And as president of the law,

it is my duty to press
these charges.

If this crime... only one
of a many, you understand...

is allowed to go unpunished,

then the sanctity of home life
in our city is doomed.

It was this girl here,

and she alone with her playing.

Your Honour, I'm a worldly man,

but never, in all my experience,

have I seen such savage dancing.

Such an iniquitous display
of brazen vulgarity.

- I protest, Your Honour.
- Your Honour...

Order in the court!

(bailiff) Ella Tearbone.

Raise your right hand.

Do you solemnly swear
to tell the whole truth,

nothing but the truth, so help you God?
- I do.

Your name, please?

Ella Tearbone.

Where do you work, Ella?

I works for
Mr. George Latimer.

How long have you
worked for Mr. Latimer?

I can't remember, but it's
been a long time, most likely.

In addition to
your other duties,

you were nursemaid for
the defendant, is that true?

Yes, sir, I suppose that's
what you call it up here.

I don't know much about
folks in this big city,

but back home, in New Orleans,
nothing like this could happen.

I raised that child, Your Honour,

and I ain't never seen
nothing wrong in music

and in folks being natural.

Music comes right from her soul,

and there can't be
no harm in that.

That's all, Ella.
Thank you.

Just one moment.

My good woman, you say
you've raised this child,

is that true?
- Mostly, sir.

I suppose that from time to time

you taught the defendant music
as well as other things?

It could be, Your Honour.

Street music and songs
from around the river front.

Could be, sir.

Your Honour, that is
exactly our charge!

This is the music
of the low places,

the iniquitous places...
- He's lying, Judge, he's lying!

It's trouble music,
that's all it is.

It's trouble music.

When folks has got trouble,

they get it off
their mind with singing.

Singing the songs I hear
since before I can remember.

If a body's got ears,
they can hear it everywhere,

even here in Chicago.

Folks can't help it, Judge,
they just can't help it.

(Ella crying) That's all, Ella.

(crowd murmuring)
(bailiff) Thomas Jones.

(gavel banging)
Raise your right hand.

Do you solemnly swear
to tell the whole truth,

nothing but the truth, so help you God?
- I do.

Uh, Mr. Jones, you are
what might be called

an average citizen,
is that true?

Yes, sirree,
that's good enough for me.

Mr. Jones, will you tell
the court, in your own words,

a little about yourself?

Well, my name's Tom Jones.

Baptised Thomas.

I belong to
the Methodist church,

third-degree Mason,
woodman of the world.

I'm an Elk, a Moose,
and a MacCabee.

I voted for
Woodrow Wilson, yes, sirree,

but I don't believe
in votes for women.

Who's gonna do the cooking?

Mr. Jones, you were
in the apartment

at the time the defendant was
playing a piano, is that true?

Yes, sir, I was.

Mr. Jones,
will you tell the jury,

in your own words,
what you think of the music

the defendant is
charged with playing?

It sends me, brothers,
it sends me.

(clamouring, gavel banging)
No questions.

Your Honour, the defence
would like to recall

the defendant to the stand.

(crowd murmuring)

Can you explain to the jury

just what kind of music,

technically, you were playing?

I don't know what
to call it, technically,

but... but I can play it for you.

May I ask the court's permission

to have the defendant
play for the jury?

- Objection.
- Overruled, permission granted.

Listen, Joe, we have no piano.

Quit calling me Joe.

We brought one ourselves,
Your Honour, it's right outside.

Would it please the court
to hear the defendant play?

Very well,
we'll adjourn to the hall.


I'm sorry, Kit, I guess
this is all my fault.

- Oh, I don't blame you.
- Good luck, Kit.

(piano playing)

Order in the court.

(bailiff) Joe, the jury is ready!


(gavel banging)

Gentlemen of the jury,
have you reached a verdict?

We have, Your Honour.

What is that verdict?


Hiya, Colonel, hiya.

I'm not a colonel. What can
I do for you, Mr. Jackson?

What can you do for me?

Ah, that's a good one.

General, I'm gonna
do something for you.

I'm the guy with
the golden apple tree,

and the little miss is
gonna shake 'em down for us.

Mr. Jackson, I wish
you'd come to the point.

What do you do that concerns me?

Plenty, but this
is only the beginning.

Do these look like
rent receipts?

No, sirree, Bob.

Right here,
I got enough contracts

to keep the little miss
busy for years.

Yes, sir, a straight
a la carte contract

for the little miss.

Well, strike while
the iron is hot.

Sign right here.

Mr. Jackson, are you
suggesting that my daughter...

Colonel, I am producing.

Why, I might even
call me an impresario.

Yeah, that's me from now on.



- Dad, you don't understand.
- I understand perfectly.

Why, with all the publicity
of that trial and the way

she massages the ivories, we'll be a sensation.
- You must be insane, man.

Do you think I'd let my daughter
cheapen herself the way you suggest?

- Oh, but you've got me wrong, Colonel.
- And I'm not a Colonel.

Well, then, look, General,
this is a break for the little girl.

A... a chance to really
play the big time,

the beginning of a career,
the birth of a new star.

Money, uh, fame,

fortune, money, bright lights.

Uh... money!

You rang,
Mr. George?

Yes, Ella,
Mr. Jackson is leaving.

Oh, I get it.

Well, it don't take
brick house to fall on me.

So long, cutie.



Better late than never, Herbert.

Wonderful, Johnny.

Ah, the one time you people come
clear across town to hear us,

we have to sound like six
drunken plumbers in a tin shop.

It was good, wasn't it, Paul?

Had a fine rhythm.

Oh, I don't know.

I've always liked sweet music.

This stuff makes me jumpy.

That's what it's supposed to do.

Johnny, I'm going home.

- What do you want me to do, carry you?
- (boy) Extra, extra!

Extra, extra!
War with Germany!

(overlapping chatter)

I'm gonna join the Army and get
some of those big gold medals.

I wanna be a general.

I'll be there, too.
What about you, Paul?

(stomping continues)


(train whistle blowing)

(man shouting)

You'll wait for me, won't you?

Where do you think you're going?

(music ends)

- Oh, is that the right box for New Orleans?
- Yes, Ella.

I just wanna make sure
Reggie gets it.


Uh, excuse me,
Mr. Policeman,

what that say there?

It says we are closing
Basin Street tonight.

I'm gonna lay me down and die.



(cheering and applause)

That's all, that's all, folks.

(crowd groaning)

This gentleman here say when
that clock strikes midnight,

old Basin Street is
breathin' it's last gasp.

(crowd groaning)

That don't mean
we're through for good.

(crowd laughing)

Mr. Jackson, the big
impresario from Chicago

is gonna take us to play
for the folks up there.


If any of ya
can get up to Chicago,

come see ol' Reggie.

'Cause we gonna blow 'em down!

Now, we gonna play ya
one more last number,

and we're gonna
really ram 'em up!






Come on, Ella,
you'll miss the parade.

Oh, you don't have to
get all dressed up.

I want Reggie to see
his ma looking nice.


(crowd cheering)

Come on, Ella.

I'm coming.

Oh, they must be coming around
the corner any minute now.

(cheering continues)

There they are!


- What kind of music is that?
- Jazz.


(Kit) There's Reggie.

Oh, doesn't he sound...

Ella, Ella.

I can't get up, child.

Oh, what's the matter,
what's the matter?

How does he look, Miss Kit?

How does my Reggie look?

Fine, fine.

He looks fine.


- Give me a cigar and coffee.
- Okay.

Hello, Kit.

Oh, hello, Johnny.

What are you so happy about?

It's good to see
you're still around.

I was afraid
you'd gone to France.

It's where I'd like to be...

only no such luck.

Why are you all
so eager to leave?

It doesn't make sense.

I don't like things that
make too much sense, Kit.

People who always add
one and one are two.

Why can't it be three?

Just once,
one and one are three.

That would be nice.

I'm sick of playing
the cornet for Uncle Sam.

I joined the army to fight,
not to blow a horn.

What'll I tell my grandchildren?


Why, you aren't
even married yet.

I will be.

What she like?

Oh, what do you care?

Go ahead, tell me.

Well, she's about
your height, your build,

same colour hair, same smile.

She looks a whole lot like you.

Well, it looks like we're
closing up for the night.

Let's go.

So long, Johnny.

Someone waiting for you?


I don't see no one.

He's waiting.

Oh, I get it.

We'll meet again somewhere.

Where one and one are three.


I was up in the major's office.

It's... it's been confirmed.

Paul is dead.

Come, let's go out
somewhere together.

You don't mind
if I don't go with you.

- Good night.
- Night.

Good night.

We'd better go
after her, Mr. Latimer.

Come on.


Why, Miss Kit,

what are you doing
up here all alone?

You remember Paul, don't you?

Sure, I remember
Mr. Paul.

You were here with him the night
before he left for France.

How is he?

Look at that twinkling star
a-winkling down

with a wicked gleam in her eye.

Remember the night
in New Orleans

when I promised I'd
bring it down for ya?

Promise is a promise.

Watch me blow it
clean out of that sky.


(cornet continues)

You almost had her, Rex.

Someday you'll get her, Rex.

Some day you'll bring her down.


Good night.

Good night, Miss Kit.

I'm going home
with you now, Dad.

Ah, would you look
at that steak?

- That's for me.
- I'll take that one.

- Thank you.
- I've decided to eat one of these.

Oh, watch me go.

(clears throat)

I hate to disturb you boys,

but the general's
waiting to tuck you in.

Outside, soldiers!


Say, you fellas are terrific.

I never heard anything
like it before.

You just ain't been
to the right place, boy.

Stick around, we don't get
warmed up until after midnight.

Is that a special kind
of cornet you use?

Mine looks the same, but I can't
get anything out of it like that.

(chuckling) Grab a chair,
we'll show you how it's done.

You mean I can sit in?

You can't learn this music
with no book, soldier.

Luke, toss him
that brand-new horn.


Now just relax and follow me.

Give me an "A."
(piano playing)





That's all, boys.

We'll save some for next time.

Oh, that was great, Rex.
Can I come again?

Sure, anytime
you feel like, Johnny...

tonight, tomorrow, anytime.
- Ah, swell.

I don't know if I can make it tonight
or tomorrow, but I'll be here.

A little thing
like a war can't stop me.

- So long.
- So long.

(war siren blaring)

Hey, what's going on out there!

(man) The war is over.

Hooray! Let me outta here.
Let me out!

(man) Relax, gentlemen,
you've got 19 more days.

(piano playing)

I hope soon to be selling
some of your records.

Well, I'm afraid
we're not that good yet.

How was the tour this time?

Well, the scenery was wonderful,

but the band was a bust.


Oh, there's no room
in the classy spots

for a little jazz outfit.

They don't go for hot stuff.

They want it dished out sweet
like a marshmallow sundae.

- Well, so what?
- I don't know.

Sometimes I think I'd be
better off driving a truck,

then I'd know where
my next buck's coming from.

What kind of a musician are you?

One with a stomach
that must be fed.

- So you're giving up?
- Not yet.

We just took a job
at the Club Grandioso.

Cordona's joint.

No, he's not a bad guy.

Whenever a musician gets
bumped off in his place,

he always gets
a first-class funeral.





Oh, it's wonderful, Johnny.

- You really think so?
- Oh, swell.

Oh, uh, it'll never
be like Rex, though.

You shouldn't be.

You've got a style of your own.

Rex is... is New Orleans,

Basin Street,
and you're Chicago.

Oh, you pick up where
Basin Street leaves off.

(screaming, gunfire)

Kit! Kit!

Where are you, Kit?!

Kit, Kit, Kit!

Oh, Johnny, Johnny.

- Johnny.
- Kit.

Are you all right?

Oh, don't cry.

Don't cry.

(trembling) I was never
so scared in my life.

Well, there's nothing
to be scared of anymore.

Don't leave me, please.


I was just gonna
put on the light.

I like the dark.

I thought you were afraid of it.

I was once.

In New Orleans,
I used to cry when...

when old Ned turned
out the street lamp.

I remember my father telling me,

"When you grow up,

you'll find night
is a wonderful thing."

It is.

It's where I found you.

I know now what made me
afraid of the dark...

it was being alone.

It's a rotten thing
to live alone.

I know.

But I'm not alone anymore...

am I, Johnny?

(car horn honking)


Hey! I have a whole
pocketful of rice.

Well, save it, it looks
like a tough winter.

When did you first know
you loved me, Johnny?

When I started to take
showers with my clothes on.

- Where are we going on our honeymoon?
- Anywhere you like.

The world is yours,
you do what you want with it.

I wanna put it in my pocket
and dance on the moon.

- Do you like babies, Johnny?
- Little ones.

Oh, Johnny.


"Smiley Jackson presents..."

Hey, this is a break.

Rex, Rex!

Miss Kit, is that you?

Hello, Rex.

- You're not in Jackson's show?
- No, Miss Kit.

I just dropped in
to say good-bye to him.


Yeah, we're gonna
hit that open road.

There must be
some spot around here

where they still like it hot.

Where a man don't have
to beat his brains out

on a set routine of music.

Where a man can play
just what he feels.

And don't it say
in the good book,

"Seek and ye shall find"?

Well, we're gonna start seeking.

- We'll miss you, Rex.
- Well, the same here.

I guess I better be going 'cause I've
got a lot of packing and things to do.

Well, drop us a line
once in a while.

I ain't much
on writing, Miss Kit.

But I'll be thinking
about you and Mr. Johnny

and be wishing you
the best of happiness.

- Well, good-bye, Miss Kit.
- Good-bye, Rex.

Kit! Kit!

I've got a job.

Smiley fixed it up with Jim
Browning for me and my band

to be the old-fashioned
jazz section of his orchestra.

Don't you believe it?

Smiley, Smiley, you tell her.

Oh, think nothing of it, kids.

Ol' Smiley never
forgets a friend.

Hey, what's the matter here?
Take it easy, will ya?

- Have I missed much?
- Only the beginning, Colonel,

but just wait'll you hear
this next number.

It'll send you outta this world.


Where's Johnny?

Don't you see him?

Are you sure he's there?

He's there all right.

Like a needle in a haystack.


Well, I better give you
your going-away presents now.

- Bill...
- We're not going away.

- You're not?
- No, of course not.

It was fun playing
with Browning for a few days.

Yeah, but a whole year of that

and we'd end up
in the bug house.

You're not kidding.

I wish Johnny wouldn't
go with Browning.

Oh, Johnny can take it,
he's a glutton for punishment.

Here he comes with Jackson.

Well, we better get going.

- See ya later, fellas.
- So long.

- Take it easy.
- Bye, Kit.

- Good luck, Johnny.
- Well, why don't you stay?

Nah, good luck, Johnny.

- Good luck, Johnny.
- See ya.

(man) Browning's band
all aboard your buses.

Keep you waiting long, honey?

Well, you fellas
got any plans yet?

Well, the Grandioso's
opening up again.

They made us an offer.

- How much?
- Enough.

You guys are chumps.

Instead of coming along with me,
you beat your brains out

in nickel-and-dime joints.

- For what?
- For fun.

So long, Johnny.

You still think it's
a lot of folderol, don't you?

I still think it's not for you.

What's wrong with
making a lot of money?

Nothing's wrong with that.

But playing the same notes
night after night,

the same music months at a time.

How long do you think
you can do that?

For this money, forever.

You're kidding yourself, Johnny.

You've turned into
a mechanical toy,

a monkey on a stick.

You just give me
a little time with Browning

and you'll see
some changes made.

That's what you think.

Good luck, Johnny.

Well, what...

what am I supposed to do,
serenade on street corners?

What are the boys doing?

No, look, honey,

what's the use of arguing?

Why don't you
come along with me, huh?

A lot of the boys
are taking their wives.

We could be together,
you and me.

You and me.

"Remember that this America
is only you and me,

past, present, future."

Please stay, Johnny.

And go back to the joint?

Nothing doing.

We've been happy so far,
haven't we?

We've had fun because
we've done what we wanted to,

played the music we liked.

But... but it's not gonna
be that way with Browning.

Please stay, Johnny.

The kinda jazz we know is dead.

And you can count me out
as a pallbearer.

If that's the way you feel.

That's the way I feel.

Hey, Johnny,
what's the matter with you?

You're holding up the buses.

Come on, come on,
the photographers are out there.

Good-bye, Kit.

What's the matter, cutie,
don't you wanna be in the picture?

- Ready!
- We're all set, Mr. Browning.

- Wait for me!
- Strike a pose, Mr. Browning.




Can't get enough of it, huh?

Look, Mr. Browning, if you let me
play that brass lick like this,

we'll have something terrific.

Later, Johnny, later.


Please, Mr. Browning,
give me a break.

Let me play it my way,
just once, huh?

Later, Johnny, later.

But when, when?


Please, Mr. Browning,
I... I can't take it anymore.

- You gotta let me play it my way.
- Later, Johnny, later.

But I'm telling you,
I can't take it anymore!

You can always quit.



Just another jazz band.

You're slipping, Smiley.

Listen, can't you hear?

It's more than just jazz.

It's... it's got kind of a swing.

- It's new.
- It's too new for me.

Listen to that horn.

Oh, I get it,
Johnny Schumacher, huh?

- Give him a break.
- What for?

Smiley never forgets
a friend, remember?

Oh, Kit, I've known
you for 10 years

and I still can't
figure you out.

You go and marry a guy,
he goes off and leaves you...

disappears... and what do you do?

You go out and try
and find him a job.

Why? What's this cornet
player got that I ain't got?

Oh, Smiley, listen.

You're a chump,
you know that, don't ya?

I know, but he's good,
and I want you to give him a break.

Oh, I must be going soft
in my old age.

All right, I'll send him a wire.

I'll squeeze him into that
band over at the 46 Club.

But he's got a band of his own.

He's got a band?
I got 20 of 'em.

Johnny's will knock 'em dead.

They don't die so quick
in this town.

(knocking on door)

All right, open up, open up.

- What do you want?
- House Detective.

Just let me have
a look around the room.

- Anything wrong?
- That's what we'll have to find out.

I still think there's something
funny going on in this room.

Well, pleasant dreams.

- It's cold out there.
- Shh shh.

Over there?

Oh, it's cold out there.


Okay, sonny boy, let's go.

- Oh.
- Let's go, come on, come on.

- Around you go.
- Come on.

- Give me some room.
- Well, you wanna be comfortable.

- Give me it.
- Get a hold of that.

Ah, ya big... watch yourself.

Give me some covers.

- Shh!
- Give me some covers.

- Shh.
- Aah...

You know, Johnny,
I've been thinking,

we could all get jobs
if we split up.

What's the use of trying to
stick together any longer?

We split up once before
when I went with Browning

and got nowhere fast.

Well, where we going now?

Well, we recorded some numbers.

Yeah, for the agents to shelf.


What's the matter, Herbert,
you got a bellyache?

Shh. He's saying
his prayers.

- Well, pray for me, too.
- Pray for yourself.

If the Lord hears me,
he's gonna have his hands full.

(loud knocking on door)

The house dick, scram!

Shh shh shh shh!

(knocking continues)


(knocking continues)

- Mr. Schumacher?
- Uh-huh?

- Is it collect?
- No, sir.

Thank you, boy.

- Yippee!
- Hey, fellas!

Listen to this..."Have spot
in Star Room, New York City.

"Hit Buffalo first
for one week at Club 11.

"Pay scale, no extras,
wire if interested.

Interstate Orchestras, Inc."

(all cheering)


Hey, what's going on here?
What's the idea?

Cut that out!
You don't belong here!

You take these fellas
and get 'em outta here.

You're keeping everybody
in the hotel awake.

Come on, get your clothes
and get outta here.

You don't belong here
in the first place.


- (woman) Good morning, Mr. Jackson.
- What is it?

Mr. Mario, manager of
the Star Room, is calling, sir.

Put him on, put him on.

Hello, Mr. Mario.

I was just thinking about you.

Say, uh, how about
a little more dough

for Johnny Schumacher?

More dough?
Are you crazy?

Don't you know
what happened in Buffalo?

Johnny. Johnny.


He didn't tell me anything.

No, he isn't here,
but I expect him any minute.

Why didn't you write?

Well, the night I left,

you called me a monkey
in Eddie's Cafe.

It made me sore.

When I found out you
were right, I really got mad.

I ditched the band,
wound up in Frisco.

For a while, I thought
I'd never come back...

so what was the use in writing?

What did make you come back?

Lots of things.

I saw guys who were
a lot worse off than me,

guys who were beat down,
slapped around,

coming from no place,
going nowhere.

Yet every night,

somewhere along the road,

they'd stopped and come to life.

They hadn't forgotten
how to laugh.

They could still sing music

made up by guys in a jam.

Songs about broken lives
and busted dreams.

I was like crazy
when I heard it.

It made me see what
brings people together.

They wanna get rid
of their troubles...

talk 'em, sing 'em,
or dance 'em away.

Well, well, well,
the prodigal son.

Hiya, Smiley.

Uh, did you tell the missus
you were a flop in Buffalo?

- Flop?
- That's right.

What happened?
What went wrong?

Nothing, they just couldn't
dance to our music is all.

What's the matter,
shoes nailed to the floor?

No, it was a large
barn-like affair,

and the people
tried to waltz and...

Well, you can't waltz
to this music.

- Why not, why not?
- Well, it's just different,

and it has to be danced differently.
- How, on the ceiling?

No, we'll show you.


I wonder what's
keeping Johnny so long.

They're listening to our record.

Boy, get a load of those drums.

Eight more payments
and they're all mine.

When we get in the Star Room,

the first thing I buy

is a real zoot suit
with a reet pleat.

Well, I'm gonna find me
a babe with a million bucks

and I'm gonna
marry her for love.

That reminds me... I better
send my wife some dough

or she'll be going
back to her mother.

Say, I think I'll write
a letter to my mother

and ask her if
she'll take me back.

Ah ah ah ah.

This is the last half,
what happens in the beginning?

Someone gets murdered.


Okay, okay, I get it.

- I like it.
- Ya see.

Now all we gotta do
is find a place to do it in.

What do you mean?

Mario cancelled the engagement
at the Star Room.


Good evening, Mr. Mario.




Our public.





They're coming, they're coming.

Yes, step right in,
ladies and gentlemen.

Step right in, right this way.

Every table a ring-side seat.

Step right up to the bar and
get yourself a little bubbles.

Ah, you lucky people.

Come in, come in, come in.

Nice to know you,
Mr. Mario!

You're fired!

Step right in,
right this way, folks.

Right this way,
come on, no pushing.

Yeah, plenty of
good tables left.

This is only the beginning.

You ain't heard nothing
till you get on the inside.

(boy) It's the Miracle
at 52nd Street!

Step right in, folks,
step right in.

You haven't heard anything
till you get on the inside.

It'll make you sing,
it'll make you swing.

It's great, it's
different, it's terrific!

You're in, partner.

- Well, keep on going.
- Come right in, folks.

You haven't heard anything
till you get on the inside.

It's the Miracle at 52nd Street!

What's the matter?
What's going on?

That's what I'm
trying to find out.

Johnny Schumacher,
the band I cancelled.

I fired him once, too.

Smart fellow.

You should talk.


Hey, Tony, put a cover charge
on Ye Flashlite Nook, will ya?

- Mr. Jackson, Mr. Jackson.
- What's the matter, what's the matter?

- Look who's here.
- Well, say...

- Connee.
- Hello, Smiley.

Am I glad to see you,
I've been looking all over for you.

I was caught in a traffic jam.

- Some crowd, huh?
- I'll say.

Makes me feel like the third
man in the telephone booth.

- When do I start?
- You're on right now.


Ladies and gentlemen,
friendship is a wonderful thing

and here's the proof of it.

We have with us tonight
a little lady

that came down here
just to send the Jive Club

off to a flying start,

singing a brand-new song
as only she can sing it,

Connee Boswell.



♪ Falling star ♪

♪ Make a wish upon
it just for two ♪

♪ For a wish is
a dream come true ♪

♪ Under a falling star ♪

♪ Falling star ♪

♪ Corral a melody
upon the end ♪

♪ And we knew
it was ours to share ♪

♪ Under a falling star ♪

♪ Let clouds conceal you ♪

♪ Let trouble music ♪

♪ Bring a passing tear ♪

♪ When they reveal you ♪

♪ That trouble music's
gonna disappear ♪

♪ Oh, falling star ♪

♪ Heartaches vanish
in the afterglow ♪

♪ Make a wish
and you'll find it so ♪

♪ Under a falling star ♪

(upbeat tempo)

♪ Oh, falling star ♪

♪ Heartaches vanish
in the afterglow ♪

♪ Make a wish
and you'll find it so ♪

♪ Under a falling star ♪

♪ Drifting from the blue ♪

♪ Waiting here for you ♪

♪ To make a wish come true ♪

♪ Under a falling ♪

♪ Star ♪♪



Gee, I wish I could get
a horn like that.

- You will.
- Really?


(shoes shuffling)

- It's a great night, Johnny.
- Yeah.

Rex must've had such
nights in New Orleans.

I wonder how long
this will last for us.

It was worthwhile,
even if it lasts only tonight.

But this time it's here to stay.

What makes you so sure?



They're not dancing just
to forget their troubles.

They're getting something
they can carry away.

They're dancing to music
that comes from the heart,

music that's American-born.

And you'll go on, Johnny,

just as great names
in music will always go on.