Alexander's Ragtime Band (film)
Alexander's Ragtime Band is a 1938 musical film released by 20th Century Fox that takes its name from the 1911 Irving Berlin song "Alexander's Ragtime Band" to tell a story of a society boy who scandalizes his family by pursuing a career in ragtime instead of in "serious" music. The film generally traces the history of jazz music from the popularization of Ragtime in the early years of the 20th century to the acceptance of swing as an art form in the late 1930s using music composed by Berlin. The story spans more than two decades from the 1911 release of its name-sake song to some point in time after the 1933 release of "Heat Wave", presumably 1938. It stars Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, Don Ameche, Ethel Merman, Jack Haley and Jean Hersholt. Several actual events in the history of jazz are fictionalized and adapted to the story including the tour of Europe by Original Dixieland Jass Band, the global spread of jazz by U.S. soldiers during World War I, and the 1938 Carnegie Hall performance by The Benny Goodman Orchestra.
|Alexander's Ragtime Band|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Henry King|
|Produced by||Darryl F. Zanuck|
|Written by||Irving Berlin|
|Screenplay by||Kathryn Scola|
|Music by||Irving Berlin|
|Cinematography||J. Peverell Marley|
|Edited by||Barbara McLean|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|May 24, 1938|
|Box office||$2,630,000 (domestic rentals)|
The story was written by Berlin himself, with Kathryn Scola, Richard Sherman (1905–1962) and Lamar Trotti. However, in 1944, a federal judge ruled that most of the story by Berlin and collaborating writers had been plagiarized from a 1937 manuscript by author Marie Dieckhaus.
Alexander's Ragtime Band was 20th Century Fox's highest-grossing film of the 1930s and was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning the award for Best Music, Scoring.
- Tyrone Power as Alexander
- Alice Faye as Stella Kirby
- Don Ameche as Charlie Dwyer
- Ethel Merman as Jerry Allen
- Jack Haley as Davey Lane
- Jean Hersholt as Professor Heinrich
- Helen Westley as Aunt Sophie
- John Carradine as Taxi Driver
- Paul Hurst as Bill
- Douglas Fowley as Snapper
- Chick Chandler as Louie
- Eddie Collins as Corporal Collins
- Joseph Crehan as Stage Manager
- Wally Vernon as Himself
- Ruth Terry as Ruby
- Robert Gleckler as Eddie
- Charles Coleman as Head Waiter
- Stanley Andrews as Colonel
- Selmer Jackson as Radio Station Manager
- Charles Williams as Agent
- Carol Adams as Hat Check Girl
- Tyler Brooke as Assistant Stage Manager
- Lon Chaney Jr. as Photographer on Stage
- Ken Darby as Army Quartet Member
- Ralph Dunn as Army Captain
- James Flavin as Army Captain
- Harold Goodwin as Military Policeman at Army Show
- Rondo Hatton as Barfly
- Edward Keane as Army Major
- King's Men as Singing Army Quartet - Y.M.C.A.
- Robert Lowery as Reporter
- James C. Morton as Bartender at Scarbie's
- Frank O'Connor as Officer in Army Show Audience
- Edwin Stanley as Critic in Army Show Audience
- Charles Tannen as Dillingham's secretary
Alexander's Ragtime Band features several hit songs by Irving Berlin including "Heat Wave", "Some Sunny Day", "Blue Skies", "Easter Parade", "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band". Previously released songs were re-arranged and used in conjunction with new songs written by Berlin for the film.
Contemporary reviews from critics were positive. Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times wrote, "With those twenty-six Berlin tunes at its disposal and with such assured song-pluggers as Alice Faye and Ethel Merman to put them over, the picture simply runs roughshod over minor critical objection and demands recognition as the best musical show of the year." Variety wrote, "Superlative in conception, execution and showmanship, it provides a rare theatrical and emotional experience." Film Daily declared it "solid entertainment that should play to big returns." Harrison's Reports called it "Excellent entertainment, capably directed and acted." Russell Maloney of The New Yorker called the music "reason enough to see the film," though he criticized the "small, persistent, mosquitolike irritation of the plot" and instances of anachronistic dialogue.
In 1937, composer Irving Berlin had been approached by 20th Century Fox to write a story treatment for an upcoming film entitled "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Berlin agreed to write a story outline for the film which would feature many of Berlin's signature tunes. Released on August 5, 1938, Alexander's Ragtime Band was a smash hit with audiences and grossed in excess of five million dollars. However, soon after, a plagiarism lawsuit was filed by author Marie Cooper Dieckhaus against Berlin and 20th Century Fox. In 1944, a federal judge ruled in Dieckhaus' favor that Berlin and collaborating writers had plagiarized a 1937 manuscript by Dieckhaus and used many of its elements. In 1937, Dieckhaus had submitted her manuscript to various Hollywood studio heads, literary agents, and other individuals for their perusal. Despite rejecting her work, much of her manuscript's plot was nonetheless appropriated for the film's screenplay. In 1946, the ruling was reversed on appeal.
Awards and honorsEdit
- "Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938) – Notes". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on 2012-01-13. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
- "All-time Film Rental Champs". Variety. October 15, 1990.
- "Plagiarism Suit Upheld: Federal Court Rules on the Film 'Alexander's Ragtime Band'". The New York Times. March 5, 1944. p. 37. Retrieved April 8, 2020.
- Brown, Gene (1995). Movie Time: A Chronology of Hollywood and the Movie Industry from Its Beginnings to the Present (paperback). New York: MacMillan. pp. 141–2. ISBN 0-02-860429-6.
- Nugent, Frank S. (August 6, 1938). "The Roxy Plays Host to 'Alexander's Ragtime Band,' a Twentieth Century Tribute to Irving Berlin". The New York Times. New York. p. 7. Retrieved April 8, 2020.
- "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc. June 1, 1938. p. 12.
- "Reviews of New Films". Film Daily. New York: Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc.: 3 May 28, 1938.
- "Alexander's Ragtime Band". Harrison's Reports. New York: Harrison's Reports, Inc.: 123 July 30, 1938.
- Maloney, Russell (August 13, 1938). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp. p. 47.
- "Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. v. Dieckhaus". United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. March 25, 1946. Retrieved April 8, 2020 – via CaseText.com.
- "Alexander's Ragtime Band". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
- "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 39 (1): 32–41. Winter 2013.
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