A must for fans of the Big Band Era and Artie Shaw. This two hour TV documentary focuses on the life of Artie Shaw and features, among others, Buddy Rich, Mel Torme and Helen Forrest. This is a great show. It won the Oscar for Best Documentary,Features. I found myself glued to it. Artie tells the story of his life. The documentary is narrated by Brigitte Berman.
It starts as the young Arthur Jacob Arshawsky escapes bigotry by getting into books and music. His first instrument was a tenor sax. At nineteen years old he worked his way into New York and became very successful as a radio musician.
He got sick and tired of being used to sell products on radio shows and left the business for marriage and a farm in Bucks County,Pa. He wanted to be a writer. His first project was a fictional story based on the life of Bix Beiderbecke. It never happened.
In 1934 he went back to music and New York. On May 24,1936 he took part in what was considered the first Swing concert. He wrote a short piece with a string quartet in the band called “Interlude In B Flat” incorporating Jazz. The crowd loved it. He didn’t have anything to play when they demanded more so he played it again.
The show moves on to his hiring of Billie Holiday and then Helen Forrest. He talks about composing his theme “Nightmare.” His band was Art Shaw and his New Music. When he signed with RCA Bluebird in 1938 they told him to start calling himself Artie Shaw. The band hit it really big with “Begin The Beguine.”
He talks about how much he couldn’t stand making a movie called “Dancing Co-ed” where he portrayed himself. Also in the movie was the then unknown Lana Turner. This is followed by Artie talking about his huge success and how much he couldn’t take the Jitterbugs. It was headlines when he called them morons.
It got to the point where after a huge success at the Palomar he got a serious blood disease and the band was taken over by Tony Pastor until he could get out of the hospital. There’s a short bit about his rivalry with Benny Goodman.
He got disillusioned with the business and quit and went to Mexico. Two months later he came back with the song “Frenesi.” He formed a new band combing Jazz and a string section. The show covers his short marriage to Lana Turner.
Now he talks about the Gramercy Five (named after a telephone exchange in New York) and their first record “Summit Ridge Drive” named after the road he lived on in Beverly Hills.
The show continues the next hour by going into his life and retirement. He also talks about his many marriages and his attitude about music and the music business. The film I saw was a bad copy and I didn’t get all of it. I keep hoping PBS would rerun it sometimes. So much for wishful thinking.