Birth of the Blues has everything from melody to comedy, and for the show bunch it’s just so much jive history in swingtime. A saga of Basin Street, New Orleans, cradle of the Dixieland jazz idiom, it projects its story with bounce and gusto; forthright in its allegiance to a then unorthodox jazz style; plus arresting romance, a plug-ugly cabaret meanace, and a wealth of cavalcade jazzapation.
Bing Crosby is the licorice-stick disciple who adheres to his premise that the colored man’s levee music, at the foot of Basin Street, was bound to sweep the country.
Mary Martin is introduced in al fresco fashion, as is Brian Donlevy, a mean man on the horn from Memphis, just what the rest of the band has been waiting for – an ofay who can toot like a Satchmo.
When Crosby, as a kid, swings Paderewski and brings down the wrath of his musicianly father, it’s solid stuff for the initiate. The jailhouse jam session with the Memphis horn man (Donlevy) in the clink is another directorial highlight.
1941: Nomination: Best Scoring of a Musical Picture