Young Man With a Horn


aec.wara8451000642733dvd 6/6/17 New

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The life of tragic jazz great Bix Beiderbecke is given the "a clef" treatment in Warner Bros. Young Man With a Horn. Kirk Douglas plays the Beiderbecke character, here named Rick Martin. An ace trumpter player, Martin is one of the few white musicians to flourish in the black-dominated jazz scene of the 1920s. Chafing against the dullness of the "respectable" orchestras for whom he works, Martin finds at least two kindred spirits in the forms of torch singer Jo Jordan (Doris Day) and piano player Smoke Willoughby (Hoagy Carmichael). He rises to popularity with his own group, and along the way falls under the spell of wealthy jazz patroness Lauren Bacall. After marrying Bacall, Martin begins neglecting his music and turns more and more to alcohol. When he skips one of her fancy parties to attend the funeral of his mentor Juano Hernandez, Bacall angrily smashes all his jazz records, effectively ending what was never a very solid relationship. Crawling into a bottle, Martin loses his touch with the trumpet-a heartbreaking sequence, in which he goes to pieces in the middle of the pop standard "With a Song in My Heart". Unlike the real Beiderbecke, who died of alcoholism at the age of 28, Rick Martin is rescued by his faithful friends Day and Carmichael. Kirk Douglas' trumpeteering in Young Man with a Horn was effectively dubbed by Harry James, while jazz pianists Buddy Cole and Jimmy Zito make uncredited soundtrack contributions. The film was adapted by Carl Foreman and Edmund H. North from a novel by Dorothy Baker. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Review Text The soundtrack to Michael Curtiz's 1950 film starring Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Doris Day is a landmark in the career of Harry James & His Orchestra. The film was a drama loosely based on the life of Bix Beiderbecke -- though not his death -- this one has a redemptive ending, whereas Beiderbecke died from alcoholism at the age of 28. James himself plays all of the trumpet solos here, and he sounds magnificent in the high register. The music is a mix of popular American tunes from both the standards and jazz canons of the 1930s and early 1940s. Here, Sammy Cahn's "Melancholy Rhapsody," shot through with film dialogue, precedes "Chinatown, My Chinatown," "Moaning Low," and is juxtaposed with Harold Arlen's "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues," and Doris Day crooning ever so sweetly on "The Very Thought of You," all in the first five minutes of the disc. The dialogue creates a narrative through the music, and vice versa, and the entire thing swings beautifully. After the soundtrack is played through, the producers clipped on excerpts -- sans dialogue -- as if the cuts from the film were played in earnest by the James band. Yes, it does make for a choppy little ride at first, but the listener quickly becomes accustomed to the drama in the set. The soundtrack factory has done a first-class job of restoring a seminal movie soundtrack to CD, and it stands on its own. ~ Thom Jurek

Product Details

Release Date
Warner Home Video
MPAA Rating
NR -- Not rated
1 hour, 52 minutes
  • Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Dolby Digital Mono
  • English
  • French
  • Spanish
Number of Discs

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