Let’s take a look at a shortlist of good-to-great films with jazz as its central theme (excluding documentaries…):
Mo’ Better Blues
The Five Pennies
Sweet And Lowdown
Sweet Love, Bitter
Tune in Tomorrow…
St. Louis Blues
The Benny Goodman Story”
The Glenn Miller Story
Young Man with a Horn
Lady Sings the Blues
The Gene Krupa Story
I’ll even add the Showtime original movie Lush Life, a drama about two best friends who play jazz in night clubs starring Jeff Goldblum and Forest Whitaker. Oh, 1993, you were so long ago…
And let’s not forget that movie Miles Davis himself, Don Cheadle, has a part in “Lush Life” – so there’s that.
The truth is that this category isn’t exactly overflowing with titles to choose from.
Now, films featuring a jazz score? Sure, we have plenty of superb choices: Anatomy of a Murder featuring Duke Ellington, Ascenseur pour l’échaffaud with the music of Miles Davis, Alex North’s music for Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire, any number of Woody Allen and Spike Lee films and so on…
In researching jazz music in films I happened upon the official site for the Museum of Modern Art, which held an exhibition last year titled Jazz Score.
Check out the website for an excellent retrospective on jazz music and cinema.
I’ll go ahead and say if the Miles Davis biopic comes out as well as I’m expecting, I would slot it immediately at #1 on the all-time best movies about jazz list – no offense to “Bird,” “Round Midnight” and a few others.
And to think Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane and Sarah Vaughn are each without a big screen adaptation (as far as I know). Any of them would be great subjects for Hollywood/Indie films.
I was about to add another favorite to the list, Nina Simone, but there’s a Untitled Nina Simone Project on the books.