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USA 1947
Directed by
Alfred E. Green
88 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Fabulous Dorseys

Typical of the heavily fictionalized musical biopics of an era when Cary Grant would play Cole Porter (Night and Day, 1946) or James Stewart Glenn Miller (The Glenn Miller Story, 1953),The Fabulous Dorseys is sentimental eyewash which after briefly sketching in the brothers’ early years growing up in a coal-mining community in Philadelphia under the watchful eye of their dear old music-teacher-cum-coal-miner Pa (Arthur Shields) and loving Ma (Sara Allgood), follows Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey as they rise through the ranks of Paul Whiteman’s orchestra to form their own band, eventually falling out and helming their own individually successful outfits while childhood friend Janie Howard (Janet Blair) functions as their vocalist and guardian in locum parentis

It’s a sappy story that never feels more than formulaic complete with an up-and-down romance between Janie and a piano player (William Lundigan) with Gershwin-like aspirations to classical music credibility.  Although the brothers play themselves they could have been played by Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and given their complete lack of screen charisma or acting skills this might have been an improvement. 

Not all is lost however as there is goodly quotient of music, from the brother’s first appearance as pre-teens playing in their father’s old-time dance band when, apparently instinctively, they break into jazz to their eventual  ascendancy during the swing era.  We seein-performance numbers such as “Marie” and  "I Get Sentimental Over You" although the best number is a jam session with Art Tatum on keys, Charlie Barnet on sax and and Ziggy Elman on trumpet. 

An engaging screen presence, Ms. Blair sings "To Me," written especially for the film by Don George and Allie Wrubel. The concert that ends the film features a bit of the "Dorsey Concerto," composed by Leo Shuken and played by the brothers in real life. Two singers who performed extensively with Jimmy's band, Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell, do vocal numbers and Paul Whiteman plays himself. although neither Frank Sinatra nor Jo Stafford, who were stars of Tommy's band, are heard or seen. 

At best a time-filler for a general audience, swing era jazz buffs will find plenty to enjoy here.




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