Young Man With A Horn (1950)

MICHAEL CURTIZ

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

USA, 1950.  .  Screenplay by , based on the novel by . Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .

A little boy, parentless and being raised by a mostly absent older sister, wanders into a jazz club one night and decides that the trumpet is the sound of his soul. Immediately coming under the wing of a caring horn player (), he grows up (now played by Kirk Douglas) to become the best of his kind, then meets a lovely girl (Doris Day) whom he spurns in favour of his instrument. Sometimes successful because of his playing, other times jobless because of his devotion to developing his art and not pleasing the crowds, Douglas eventually falls madly in love with a mysterious socialite (Lauren Bacall) with whom he enters a miserable marriage that nearly destroys him. This highly entertaining melodrama by the great Michael Curtiz, filmed much later in his career after the heyday of his Errol Flynn adventures and Oscar-winning Casablanca, starts off with intoxicating pizzazz but eventually gives way to hokey soap opera in its last third. Allegedly based on the life of Bix Beiderbecke, it is rife with fantastic music, both in the trumpet solos (dubbed for Douglas, who fakes it exceptionally well, by Harry James) and the singing numbers by the gorgeously voiced Day. Bacall’s entire subplot seems to have been stitched in from a different movie, though it shouldn’t be downplayed how good she is at playing a messed up, over-the-hill debutante at a mere 26 years old. Also features the great in a wonderful supporting role as Douglas’s most trusted companion.

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