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Friday, 14 November 2014

Classic Film Review: The Glenn Miller Story (1954)

The Glenn Miller Story is, unsurprisingly, a biopic of the legendary band leader starring James Stewart in the title role. It documents both his professional quest to find the perfect 'sound' and his relationship with his wife, Helen (June Allyson), and includes cameos from stars such as Louis Armstrong and Frances Langford.

This film gets off to a slow start, as many biopics are forced to do, and it's a bit of a stretch to believe Stewart as a young Miller but this becomes less important as time passes on. The first half documents Miller's struggles with his music while focusing a lot on the love story between Miller and Helen. Stewart and Allyson are pretty brilliant together, with an easy rapport that makes their relationship feel natural. In addition, Allyson has some excellent scenes without Stewart which give her the chance to flex her sarcastic muscles a little more.

The second half of the film is essentially what happens to Miller after he finds that perfect 'sound' and the success both before and during the war. Naturally, this part of the film is full of Miller's most famous numbers and it becomes toe-tappingly good very quickly. The performance of 'Moonlight Serenade' where everything finally goes right sent shivers up my spine.

Of course, everybody knows the end to the Glenn Miller story and, yes, I'll freely admit to shedding a few tears at the end. That this film was made only ten years after his disappearance probably accounts for the sentimentality of it but, nevertheless, it's a film that lovingly depicts one of the great musicians of the twentieth century. My favourite scene is probably the anniversary where Miller and Helen both surprise each other. In that scene the strands of Miller's story are intertwined completely and it's beautiful.

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