The Glenn Miller Story (1954)
I was first made aware of The Glenn Miller Band/Orchestra a few years ago whilst listening to Radio 2 before leaving for college. An instrumental piece that had the ability to lift you from the morning blues and put you in the right step for the rest of the day. Of course that piece in In the Mood which is what The Glenn Miller Band is and will be best remembered for around the globe today. I later discovered whilst at Art school a love for James Stewart who made the biopic of the man. I wasn’t in any rush to buy the DVD, thinking that it maybe a hit or miss film, unlike some of his others which I would buy in a heartbeat. It’s only with the passing of time that I waited for this nugget of a film to appear, which it did over the festive period. The Glenn Miller Story (1954) helped by me watching a Biography on Stewart which featured clips from the film, I knew I was in for a treat when the time finally came.
From the outset I knew this was a classic in the opening minutes, a cockle-warmer as I say, (mainly for films with Stewart or directed by Frank Capra) Adding to that this was a long collaboration between Stewart and Anthony Mann of course better known for the westerns they produced together, this still holds up against a far bleaker set of films. Showing different sides to one of the most versatile actors in film. Along with a far more suited June Allyson as Helen Burger, Millers wife, who played opposite him three times, a far better on-screen couple than in Battle Circus (1953) which seemed forced and unnatural. Here she is perfect fit, a more wholesome character who still was a driving force behind the jazz band man who was passionate about having his own sound, that was distinctive from other bands. A goal he did indeed achieve.
Looking at other musician biopic’s, such as Walk the Line (2005), Ray (2004), and What’s Love got to do with it (1993) for instance which go far into the private life’s and personal struggles of the star. Of course this was made 60 years ago, with different intentions of how to portray a life story. It felt a little too easy, that’s without knowing about Glenn Miller‘s rise to stardom. It feels a perfect fit to have James Stewart in the role, compete with musical talent, a little hair-dye and we have a new man in front of us. A softened version of his life may appear on the screen.
Such as the near brushing over of the couples struggle to have children which resulted in at least one miscarriage, which was dealt with all too lightly for a modern audience, instilling a sense of hope instantly. The focus is very much on Miller and his fight to get his own band and that unique sound, that took him al over the States before Europe in WWII. A rare chance to see Stewart in military uniform, after himself return from service.
Never the less it’s an uplifting film complete with some of the best and lesser-known tracks made by the Miller Band. With several nods from the likes of Louis Armstrong and Frances Langford there is a real respect for the musician who sadly went missing over the English Channel just before Christmas 1944. We have a film that will continue to open up this musician to new audience, via a cinematic pairing who produced some of the darkest westerns. It maybe rose-tinted by today’s standards but I just don’t care when I have Mr. Stewart on my screen.
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