The fellow who thought up the idea of using a bunch of old tunes played in modern arrangements as a way of livening up a movie ought to be Hollywood's Number One Hero by this time. From the barbershop quartet favorites of the nineties to the ballads that Grandmother used to waltz to--all these have been worked to the hilt; and they've met with consistent success. It was inevitable that somebody should get the notion of using some of the top-notch blues songs of the past as the thread on which to hang another movie. And that's exactly what's been done in Paramount's "The Birth of the Blues."
It's a mighty hefty thread for a somewhat slim story to hand on, but with the material they had to work with, the producers could probably have filmed a hit if they interspersed glimpses of the Boston telephone directory to sustain the plot interest. Every ditty that horse-and-buggy gramophones ground out is here, from "Tiger Rag" to "After the Ball" and "My Melancholy Baby." With a couple of the screen's best song-pluggers, Mary Martin and Bing Crosby, to do the honors, these old--but not outworn--Hit Paraders pack all the punch, plus a good deal more nostalgia, than they had in their prime.
To make things even rosier, Paramount has dragged out one of the original Bix Bicderbeeke outfit, jack Teagarden, to furnish the orchestral trimmings; and Teagarden doesn't miss, whether he's playing swing, sweet, or a combination of both.
Crosby and miss martin can never be accused of over-acting, and this gift prevents their romantic escapades from becoming as disconcerting to the rest of the picture as they might well have been. Jack Benny's Black Friday, Rochester, contributes his funny moments, and sings too, but if music is your forte, that's what you'll pay attention to when you see "The Birth of the Blues."