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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Columbia Leads a Swing Parade


Jam Session (1944) Is Just What Title Implies


Ann Miller spends virtually all of this trying to crash Hollywood, result being no song/dance by her till almost the end. Wasn't that why Columbia hired Ann Miller? A "B" as were most from that shop, Jam Session is really band shorts strung together that relate but barely to slim narrative. There's fun of seeing a western in production, plus generous peek inside sound stages. Ann uses underhand means of getting past studio gates and emerges a star for her effort. Did this encourage real-life aspirants to do likewise? Jam Session makes picture-work look like ultra-casual enterprise. Maybe it was at Columbia. Bands were a meaningful draw to wartime pics, being at a peak during the conflict. One and two reelers with a name group were constants. To bill four, six, even ten bands, was enough to sell an otherwise tepid feature. Jam Session took $397K in domestic rentals, quite a figure for a B, but not unexpected in boom year that was 1944.

3 Comments:

Blogger Neon Scribe said...

This was a repeat of the formula used in "Reveille with Beverly" in 1943, Ann Miller and a thin plot used to string together band performances.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

Hollywood always seemed to be selling the rags-to-riches, anybody-can-be-a-star fantasy in its product while officially warning away amateur hopefuls and small-time professionals.

Breaking into movies by breaking into studios seems to have been a pretty common comedy plot, dating back to at least "Ella Cinders" and usually involving disguises to get past the guard at the gate. Flip the Frog and other cartoons used it; "You Ought to Be in Pictures" had an animated Porky Pig sneaking into a live action Warner soundstage. Donald and Daffy both crashed movie lots, but as autograph seekers.

The two-reel "Out Where the Stars Begin" had a dancer slipping away from a guided tour and ending up in a starring role; "Make Me a Star" (based on the oft-filmed play "Merton of the Movies") had the hero living on the lot despite being fired (a plot recycled on "Love American Style").

Bluffing and bullying into producers' offices, homes or restaurant meals was perhaps even more common; usually an excuse to present a musical number or comedy bit in those settings. And more common still was the dramatic actor or non-actor so incompetent the studio turns him/her into a superstar comedian.

At the same time, many of the same films had their heroes drawn to Hollywood by fake contests and phony agents ... and succeeding anyway.

I remember a curious short about the life of a Hollywood extra, tied into the making of a Cecil B. DeMille epic. Much of it was a cautionary tale about shattered hopes and dreams, and includes DeMille furiously chewing out an extra for having a modern hairstyle in his historically exact movie. At the end the extra is singled out for a dialogue part -- an implausible big break which undercuts the whole don't-go-to-Hollywood message.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Marc J. Hampton said...

Strange these Ann Miller musicals aren't on DVD...Columbia has released some really obscure titles but not these, which are actually somewhat known to serious musical fans like me, and even played at the Film Forum in NYC when they did their B Musical Festival. Maybe disputed music rights are the culprit? These and Universal's Donald O'Connor/Peggy Ryan musicals are conspicuously absent from the market...weren't they fairly popular in their time?

11:42 PM  

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