Syncopation (1942)

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Syncopation (1942) Poster

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 ... See full summary »


6.2/10
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9 April 2020 | LeonardKniffel
9
| Unusual Film Filmed with Jazz Classics
From the opening scene of African drums and images of the Atlantic slave trade, you know this is not going to be a conventional Hollywood production. The scene switches to New Orleans in 1906, and the movie becomes a paean to the city's black residents, their religiosity and creativity, clearly credited with the origins of jazz. Covering the evolution of ragtime, blues, jazz, swing, and boogie woogie through prohibition, the stock-market crash, the Great Depression, and the outbreak of World War II the story is told through a romance in which the characters, played by Bonita Granville and Jackie Cooper argue over the need to stay true to their musical roots and the need to make money and popularize the new musical styles. Meanwhile, she bangs out tunes on the piano and he toots his heart out on the trumpet. The credits don't seem to indicate who is dubbing whom, but the final scene showcases some of the finest musicians of the 1940s. Prior to the making of the film, RKO studio held a contest for the readers of the Saturday Evening Post to vote on the musicians they would choose to make up an All-American Dance Band. The result is a pseudo jam session with Charlie Barnet, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Jack Jenney, Gene Krupa, Alvino Rey, and Joe Venuti. Singer Connee Boswell also makes an appearance in the film with her rendition of "Under a Falling Star." "Syncopation" is not a musical where people burst into song for no apparent reason; the music is carefully integrated into the story. Some of its content was daring for the time-friendships between white and black musicians, for example. In one scene, an admiring Jackie Cooper says to Todd Duncan, "You fellas are terrific," to which Duncan replies, "Thanks, boy." You can bet that in apartheid America that line kept the movie out of a lot of theaters. Among the other surprises in this film: an astounding apache dance, quotes from Walt Whitman's poetry, and a stunning performance by Jessica Grayson as the long suffering nanny. ---from Musicals on the Silver Screen, American Library Association, 2013

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Genres

Comedy | History | Music | Romance

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