American composer George Gershwin left us much too soon at the young age of 38. He died of a brain tumor in 1937, and eight years after his death a somewhat fictionalized movie about his life was released in 1945, Rhapsody in Blue.
One remarkable aspect of this movie is a number of people who knew Gershwin were in the movie as themselves: Oscar Levant, Paul Whiteman (who premiered Rhapsody in Blue), Hazel Scott, Anne Brown, Al Jolson, George White, and Elsa Maxwell. It is a love letter to this remarkable composer and musician.
Robert Alda (father of Alan Alda) turns in a great performance as George Gershwin, as does Joan Leslie as his fictionalized love interest Julie Adams.
Strong performances were also turned in by Morris Carnovsky as George Gershwin’s father, Albert Bassermann as his fictionalized teacher Professor Franck (perhaps patterned in part after both Charles Hambitzer and Rubin Goldmark), and Herbert Rudley as Ira Gershwin.
And then there’s the wonderful music of George Gershwin throughout the film, including much of An American in Paris, a personal favorite of mine. I’ll bet you’ll hear familiar songs that you didn’t even know were written by Gershwin!
I loved this movie. Unfortunately, it is not available through either Netflix or Amazon streaming, but you can purchase a high-quality DVD for $12.99 from Warner Brothers.
If you don’t know much about George Gershwin, this movie is a good starting point. After you watch it, I guarantee you’ll want to learn more about the real George Gershwin and his music. Enjoy!