‘THE GLENN MILLER STORY’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Celebrating Glenn Miller and his Music
This is the best biographical film of Glenn Miller I’ve seen!
Okay it’s not one hundred per cent accurate. But ‘The Glenn Miller Story’ film made in 1954 with James Stewart and June Allyson is a superb account of the legendary band leader and his music. The film details how Glenn struggled in early life before he became the big band music success later on.
My Dad introduced me to Glenn Miller and his music at an early age when I was a boy. I gradually grew to love Glenn Miller’s music with the likes of ‘Moonlight Serenade’; ‘In the Mood’ and ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’. All my favourite musical numbers are featured in this superb musical film.
The film was made not long after Glenn Miller’s mysterious disappearance from the world during the Second World War. I’m impressed with how the filmmakers made this film with love for Glenn Miller’s life and music and so impressed with James Stewart’s performance as Glenn Miller himself.
‘The Glenn Miller Story’ begins with Glenn’s early years struggling in the music business with his best friend, pianist Chummy MacGregor in the 1930s. Gradually during the film, Glenn finds the roots to his success to big band music; having his big band orchestra and marrying the love of his life, Helen.
I found a lot of things about Glenn Miller’s life to becoming a band leader interesting as I was watching the film. I eventually did a music presentation of Glenn Miller when I was in primary school. I enjoyed playing Glenn’s music on a cassette tape when presenting to my class in the 1990s.
The heart of the film is the romance between Glenn and his to-be-wife Helen. I love how blissful and agreeable the romance between Glenn and Helen was portrayed in the film. It must have been like that in real for Glenn to have a supportive wife as Helen when struggling to the success he wanted.
James Stewart is superb as Glenn Miller. James usually worked for Frank Capra in the 1940s in films like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and worked for Alfred Hitchcock in the 1950s in films like ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Rear Window’. This is a different departure for James Stewart to play a historical character in music.
I like the honesty and down-to-earth portrayal of Glenn Miller by James Stewart in the film. James sometimes looks like Glenn, even when he’s wearing glasses. The realism of Glenn’s struggles in the story is well-portrayed by James. I liked the occasional stubborn but light-hearted manner as Glenn.
June Allyson is equally superb as Helen, Glenn Miller’s love interest and eventual wife in the film. June has often appeared in musical films, including ‘Good News’ with Peter Lawford in 1947. I liked June’s performance as Helen and love it when she says her own catchphrase “Honestly!” in the film.
The romantic elements are very sweet and June is easily likeable as Helen. It’s easy to see why Glenn would fall in love with Helen, as she supports him during their marriage in trying to make his big band success work. It was interesting to learn that Helen loves the song ‘Little Brown Jug’ in the film.
The cast also includes Harry Morgan as Chummy MacGregor in the film. Harry starred in the films ‘State Fair’ and ‘Orchestra Wives’ (one of the original films featuring Glenn Miller and his Orchestra). Chummy is Glenn’s best friend and a pianist when they go together to look for success with music.
There’s also Charles Drake as Don Haynes, who becomes Glenn’s band bookmaker in the film. There’s George Tobias (from the TV series ‘Bewitched’) as Si Shribman, who helps give Glenn the money for his band. And there’s Barton MacLane as General Arnold who Glenn meets in the armed forces.
The film also features a cameo appearance of Louis Armstrong in the film. I found out that this was inaccurate as Glenn didn’t meet Louis in his life. There’s also the Modernaires and Frances Langford (also inaccurate, as Glenn didn’t meet her in life) and they sing ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ in the film.
There are plenty of good musical numbers featured in the film. The most memorable number is ‘Moonlight Serenade’, the ‘theme song’ of Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. I enjoyed how the melody gradually develops in the film, before it became a success and everyone is applauding to it.
There’s also ‘In the Mood’, which is one of my favourite pieces of music by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. This was played during Glenn Miller was in the armed forces in the film. It got tense when Glenn and his band still kept playing ‘In the Mood’, whilst a bomber plane was flying across England.
There’s also ‘String of Pearls’, another Glenn Miller hit that I found very easy to listen to. I found it interesting and sweet when the tune related to a pearl necklace that Glenn for Helen on her ‘last birthday’ which isn’t ‘until next November’. I don’t know how accurate that is, but it is sweet indeed.
There’s also ‘Pennsylvania 6-500’, which is based on a famous telephone number used in New York City. In the film, Glenn gives Helen the number to call her when he asks her to marry her in the film. I liked it when the number is performed in the film for Glenn and Helen’s tenth wedding anniversary.
There’s also ‘Tuxedo Junction’ which I enjoyed listening to when Glenn and his Orchestra were performing it as music for a Hollywood motion picture. I’m disappointed that the two Glenn Miller 1940s films didn’t get a mention in this film. It got a mention in the theatre version that I saw lately.
There’s also the ‘St Louis Blues March’, which is a well-known piece of Glenn Miller music when he was serving in the armed forces. I like this tune, as Glenn was determined to set up his own band in the armed forces when he joined so he can help boost morale for soldiers in the Second World War.
And of course there’s ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’, performed by Frances Langford and the Modernaires in the film. I wished that Tex Beneke performed that song in the film instead of Frances (meaning no disrespect). Hearing that song sung by Tex with the Modernaires is better with me.
I liked some of the numbers that was performed as background music in the film. There’s the incidental music of the songs of ‘I Know Why’ and ‘At Last’ from the two original Glenn Miller films. There’s also ‘American Patrol’, performed as background music for the Second World War montage.
The film ends on a sad note, as Glenn Miller disappears from the world when he goes into a plane that gets caught in a ‘soupy’ mist. But I’m pleased that the film ends on a reassuringly note as Glenn Miller’s music still goes on even without him. That is true as Glenn Miller’s music is still played today.
There aren’t any DVD special features to be found on this DVD for ‘The Glenn Miller Story’. I was disappointed, as I hoped there’d be a making-of documentary on this wonderful biographical film about Glenn Miller. Maybe there’s a special edition DVD version of ‘The Glenn Miller Story’ to be found.
‘The Glenn Miller Story’ is a lovely biographical film about Glenn Miller’s life as a big band leader and his romance with Helen. It may not be historically accurate in places, but it certainly is a lovely tribute for a man whose music has been played for years and years and continues to do so in future.
‘The Glenn Miller Story’ rating – 9/10
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