Tommy and Jimmy portray themselves in this biopic that is unfortunately short on music.
It begins in the coal country of Pennsylvania in 1916. Tommy,Sr. works in the mines and supplements his income by giving music lessons on various instruments. He’s determined his sons won’t have to work in the mines and figures music will be their way out. Tommy likes to improvise while Jimmy sticks to the sheet music. That’s just one reason for the two to fight with each other. Their friend Jane Howard keeps acting as peacemaker.
Their father gets them a job with his band at the local dance hall. During a waltz Tommy can’t resist jamming. Most of the crowd digs it.
Now they’re adults with their own band with Jane as the vocalist. They’re getting nowhere fast. In one small town their piano player quits and they have Jane (Janet Blair) charm Bob Burton (William Lundigan) into replacing him. Bob plays piano for the silents at the movie theater. Bob has composed a concerto and wants to dedicate it to his wife Jane. She’s not ready. She’s still too attached to the Dorseys’ and keeping the peace. Tommy and Jimmy decide to head off on their own to New York where they join Paul Whiteman’s band. There’s a number with a quick solo by Henry Busse. I cringe every time I see the way Whiteman billed himself as the King of Jazz. Music fans will notice that there’s not even a whisper of Ben Pollack, Jean Goldkette or any of the other bands or musicians they played with.
Time once again for them to form their own band. Bob and Jane rejoin them. They’re now becoming successful. After a long rehearsal the band is playing “I’ll Never Say ‘Never Again’ Again.” Jimmy says it’s too fast. Tommy disagrees and it’s almost time for another fist fight until peacemaker Jane stops them.
They all decide to go see Art Tatum. At a table Bob proposes again. Now comes the musical highlight of the movie. It’s a jam session on “Art’s Blues” with Tommy, Jimmy, Charlie Barnet and Ziggy Elman.
At the Island Casino Mom and Pop Dorsey are there. The band swings into “I’ll Never Say ‘Never Again’ Again.” Jimmy thinks it’s too fast and blows a sour note. Tommy walks out. The two form their own orchestras. There’s a montage of their success. Not one mention of Frank Sinatra with Tommy, let alone Dick Haymes or The Pied Pipers. There is a scene with Jimmy’s band with Ray Eberly and Helen O’Connell doing “Green Eyes.” Jane went with Tommy.
No matter what anyone tries the brothers still aren’t speaking to each other. Then Jane gets a bright idea involving Bob’s now put away concerto, a benefit concert and Paul Whiteman. The ending is a mix of pathos and triumph. I can only imagine how the movie would have turned out if they had waited a few years until Tommy introduced on “Stage Show”….Elvis.