GLENN MILLER STORY, THE(director: Anthony Mann; screenwriters: Valentine Davies/Oscar Brodney; cinematographer: William H. Daniels; editor: Russell F. Schoengarth; music: Glenn Miller; cast: James Stewart (Glenn Miller), June Allyson (Helen Berger), Harry Morgan (Chummy (as Henry Morgan)), Charles Drake (Don Haynes), George Tobias (Si Schribman), Ben Pollack (Himself), Louis Armstrong (Himself), Gene Krupa (Himself); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Aaron Rosenberg; Universal-International Pictures; 1954)
“If you’re a fan of the big band sound (which I’m not) you will probably like this pic much better than I did.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Anthony Mann (“Strategic Air Command”/”Thunder Bay”/”Winchester ’73”) directs this slow moving but earnest fictionalized musical biopic on renown bandleader Glenn Miller, while the musical score is supervised by Henry Mancini. The box office smash mixes swing with sugary sentimentality, as written by Valentine Davies and Oscar Brodney who follow the usual formulaic rags-to-riches success story. It tracks the life of the unassuming trombonist (James Stewart), a Los Angeles native who while at the University of Colorado falls for Helen Burger (June Allyson) and she becomes his practical, supportive and loyal wife. After graduation he works for bandleader Ben Pollack (playing himself) and later takes a gig in the pit of a Broadway show. Later, in Boston, while working at the dance hall run by Si Schribman (George Tobias), Miller comes up with his signature sound when his trumpet player splits his lip and forces the clarinetist to take over playing the lead on “Moonlight Serenade.” Although Stewart had lessons on the trombone, the actual playing was dubbed by the real-life Glenn Miller regulars Murray MacEachern and Joe Yukluntil. Miller soon reaches international fame as a big band bandleader. He volunteers for the service during WW II and is made a captain and placed in charge of a service band, but meets tragedy when his military plane disappears while he’s overseas to entertain troops.
For fans of Miller, there are some 20 tunes of his such as “Little Brown Jug,” “Moonlight Serenade,” “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” “In the Mood,” “Tuxedo Junction,” “String of Pearls” and “America Patrol” to bring back pleasant memories of another era. Highlights include Louis Armstrong’s jam session of ‘Basin Street Blues’ in a speakeasy in Harlem, and Frances Langford dressed in a sexy evening gown doing ‘Chattanooga Choo-Choo.’ Also appearing as himself is drummer Gene Krupa. If you’re a fan of the big band sound (which I’m not) you will probably like this pic much better than I did, as the film is competently made, it casts the right person in the starring role, the music is wonderfully reproduced and it seems like an honest effort to tell the story (even if it takes liberties with presenting the facts of the band leader’s career).
The Glenn Miller Story was the fourth film Mann and Stewart made together.
REVIEWED ON 10/27/2008 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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