The music of Benny Goodman comes to life in this wonderful musical biography of the famed King of Swing. Featuring all the outstanding songs and instrumental made famous by the immortal clarinetist, the story follows the innovative musician from his childhood in Chicago to his historic concert at Carnegie Hall in 1938. Steve Allen, Donna Reed and Sammy Davis, Sr. star in this unforgettable tribute to Goodman and his music with performances by the original Benny Goodman Quartet (Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, Ben Pollack, Edward “Kid” Ory and Lionel Hampton) along with Harry James, Martha Tilton and Ziggy Elman. The priceless soundtrack highlights Goodman himself with classic renditions of “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “One O’Clock Jump,” “Stompin’ At The Savoy,” “Moonglow” and “Goody, Goody” and many more.
It lacks the tragic ending of The Glenn Miller Story, a smash hit released a year earlier, but this enjoyable musical biopic does a nice job of blending Benny Goodman's sweet swinging clarinet with a healthy dose of Hollywood hokum. The emphasis is on Goodman's struggle to get "hot music" into the mainstream, and his shy wooing of a socialite (Donna Reed). With Steve Allen cast as the bespectacled Goodman, there's a comic undertone to the bandleader's somewhat geeky demeanor, and Allen (a musician himself) is believable fronting the orchestra. Real-life swing figures, including Goodman Quartet players Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, and Lionel Hampton, lend verisimilitude. The climax comes with Goodman's legendary 1938 jazz concert at Carnegie Hall, a turning point in American popular music--and the sight of a mild-mannered man in a tuxedo leading his band through the glorious frenzy of "Sing, Sing, Sing" remains a delight. --Robert Horton