Pete Kelly's Blues

1955

Action / Crime / Drama / Music

19
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 43%
IMDb Rating 6.5 10 933

Synopsis


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Director

Cast

Janet Leigh as Ivy Conrad
Jayne Mansfield as Cigarette Girl
Lee Marvin as Al Gannaway
720p.BLU
753.20 MB
1280*720
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 35 min
P/S 0 / 3

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by bkoganbing 7 / 10

Shaking Down The Musicians In Prohibition Kansas City

The background of the Prohibition Era of Tom Pendergast's Kansas City in the Twenties at its height is the setting for the story of Pete Kelly's Blues. Jack Webb's crisp documentary like style honed by years of doing Dragnet on television is the manner in which Pete Kelly's story of resistance to the mob is told. All Webb in the title role wants to do is play jazz, but playing jazz in mobbed up Kansas City came at a price.

The one who wants the payoff is political ward boss/gangster Edmond O'Brien. He's got the swinging part of Kansas City in his pocket where all the speakeasies and clubs are and he's thought of a new racket, charge protection to the musicians, even to the extent of moving their own legitimate agents out. And O'Brien wants 25% not the usual 10% real agents charge.

Webb's defiant, cowed, and then defiant again during the course of the film. The murder of his drummer Martin Milner takes a lot of the fight out of him. But O'Brien pushes way too hard and he's a really crude sort of thug. In the end Webb snaps.

With one exception the cast is great. The music end is taken by two really great singers Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee who have some great numbers that show why they were the best in their business. Lee even copped an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, but lost to Jo Van Fleet for East Of Eden. Lee Marvin is here and not playing a thug, but is a clarinetist and Webb's best friend. Webb plays the trumpet. Andy Devine is law enforcement and deadly serious. The squeaky voice is moderated and Andy's bulk is used similarly to Laird Cregar in I Wake Up Screaming and Orson Welles in Touch Of Evil. Andy never had a role this serious on screen. And Peggy Lee even with that Oscar nomination never followed up on it, my guess being she thought of herself as a singer not an actress primarily.

Janet Leigh who usually is great disappoints me here. Her role as an air-headed party girl is really out of place and why Webb is falling for her is a mystery. Later on she nearly gets him killed when he finally decides to face down O'Brien. Janet does her best, but the part makes no sense at all to me.

The locale of Pete Kelly's Blues in Pendergast controlled Kansas City is interesting. O'Brien is just the kind of guy Pendergast would have as a lieutenant. Pendergast's name is not mentioned, in 1955 it didn't have to be. The recent president of the United States, Harry S. Truman was a product of that machine and that was never out of the public's mind even after Pendergast was dead.

Dixieland jazz fans will really like the music from Pete Kelly's Blues, I certainly did along with the rest of the film.

Reviewed by JohnHowardReid 10 / 10

A masterpiece!

Considering all the hype with which the medium was promoted, the early days of CinemaScope brought very few cinema masterpieces. "Pete Kelly's Blues" is one of those few.

By masterpiece, I don't just mean superlatively entertaining. "Broken Lance" fills that bill, but it's not the sort of movie you can see over and over again, each time re-living the emotions of the characters and soaking up the atmosphere. The master script has an astringency, the master movie has a pace and flair that survive endless repetition. There is a special poignancy about the acting, a unique vigor in the direction, an artistic harmony in the images, a soul-searching vibrancy in the music. It's a movie with something to say, even if its philosophy can only be expressed in the most general terms, for example "Evil is ultimately defeated by Right" (Pete Kelly), "Romance and sentiment triumph over war and corruption" (Casablanca).

With its jazz-age soundtrack complementing its prohibition-era Kansas City visuals, "Pete Kelly's Blues" provides a rich aural and visual experience that can be turned on whenever a CinemaScope print can be threaded through a projector. (Obviously it's a waste of time watching the movie on the old standard TV screen). I don't know whether any attempt was made to duplicate actual Kansas City locales, and I don't care. The movie has its own atmosphere, its own ambiance, its own moody plays of light and shade.

The appropriately glum but practical, cynical, wavering but finally rock-solid Webb is ideally cast in the title role. On the other hand, despite her second billing, Janet Leigh's part is comparatively small and not particularly memorable, but she performs her chores admirably all the same. It's Edmond O'Brien, Peggy Lee, Lee Marvin, Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Devine (forsaking his usual comic antics), and most surprising of all, the bumptious Martin Milner (here perfectly cast) that join Webb in contributing some really unforgettable portraits.

And on the soundtrack — Webb's cornet dubbed by the brilliant Dick Cathcart — such now nostalgic standards as "Pete Kelly's Blues" (Sammy Cahn, Ray Heindorf, sung by Ella Fitzgerald), "Sing Me a Rainbow", "He Needs Me" (Arthur Hamilton), "Somebody Loves Me", "Sugar" (Maceo Pinkard, Sidney Mitchell, Edna Alexander, all sung by Peggy Lee), "I Never Knew" (Gus Kahn, Ted Fiorito), "Hard-Hearted Hannah" (Jack Yellen, Milton Ager, Bob Bigelow, Charles Bates, sung by Ella Fitzgerald), "Bye, Bye Blackbird" (Mort Dixon, Ray Henderson), "What Can I Say After I Say I'm Sorry" (Walter Donaldson, Abe Lyman), "Oh, Didn't He Ramble" (Bob Cole, Will Handy), "Breezin' Along With the Breeze" (Haven Gillespie, Seymour Simons, Richard Whiting), "Gonna Meet My Sweetie Now".

In all, however, this movie is not just a feast for jazz fans, it's a top-of-the-post drama in any man's league.

Reviewed by Lonixcap 5 / 10

Pete Kelly tangled in Webb of bad acting.....

I just watched this on Turner Classic Movies the other night after not having seen it in years, back when it was a pan-and-scan version loaded with commercials.

It was great seeing it uncut and commercial-free in it's original letterboxed CinemaScope format. Director Jack Webb shows a creative visual imagination, and along with cameraman Hal Rosson he creates some decent period atmosphere, despite the limits of those early widescreen lenses. This would have been better in the old 3-strip Technicolor format, but that's really splitting hairs.

The thing with this picture that never gets it off the ground is Jack Webb, the actor. He's just not believable as a jazzman. Despite Ella Fitzgerald, who is tremendous, and Peggy Lee, somewhat wasted in this role (in more ways than one) Webb is wooden and one-dimensional. Maybe Monty Clift or even Jeffrey Hunter would have been better. James Dean would have made this into a classic, despite the hackneyed storyline of musicians having to pay the mob to keep their gig.

That plot point should have been a given, with the musicians doing their gig and paying the mob and playing their music against the backdrop of jazz age 1920's.

This movie needed less plot and more atmosphere, and a better leading man. Webb the actor sinks this one.

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