Sing it
February 26, 2014 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Nat King Cole. Eartha Kitt. Mahalia Jackson. Pearl Bailey. Cab Calloway. Ella Fitzgerald. Billy Preston. All assembled for a single musical: the 1958 W.C. Handy biopic St. Louis Blues.

For all the perfection of that cast, St. Louis Blues is not a perfect film. Cab Calloway doesn't sing at all(!), and Fitzgerald only drops in for one number; the script gives Handy's life a by-the-numbers "Jazz Singer" treatment while moving the action, perhaps for reasons of budget, from the 1890s to the prohibition era; Cole isn't always at ease when not singing or playing. Good thing there's lots of singing and playing:

"Hush the Wind" (Featuring an infant Billy Preston on an anachronistic electric organ. With Mahalia Jackson, Pearl Bailey, and chorus.)

"Honest John Baile/Yellow Dog Blues" (Sung by Eartha Kitt.)

"Careless Love" (Sung by Nat King Cole and Kitt.)

"Chantez Les Bas (Sing 'Em Low)" (Kitt)

"Morning Star" (Cole)

"He That Sows in Tears" (Jackson and chorus)

"Steal Away" (Jackson, Bailey, and chorus)

"Beale Street Blues" (Featuring Ella Fitzgerald in an anachronistic cameo.)

"St. Louis Blues" (Bailey)

Handy medley (Cole)

"St. Louis Blues" orchestral reprise (Kitt)

"St. Louis Blues" second reprise (Cole)

Bonus St. Louis Blues: a 1929 2-reeler of that name starring Bessie Smith in her only film role. Scenario by W.C. Handy himself.

And previously: the Nat King Cole Trio and the story of "Nature Boy."
posted by Iridic (6 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
posted by The Whelk at 3:52 PM on February 26, 2014

Oh when the Blues
Come skating in!
Oh when the Blues come skating in!
Lord I want to be on the red line
When those Blues are skating in!

And yes, the Blues organist plays the St. Louis Blues.
Oshie! Oshie! Oshie! Oi! Oi! Oi!
posted by eriko at 5:41 PM on February 26, 2014

Eartha was always the best Catwoman...
posted by jim in austin at 6:58 PM on February 26, 2014


1958, when movies were still presented as if they were stage plays.... which isn't necessarily a bad thing...
posted by HuronBob at 7:21 PM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow...great stuff here. That Bessie Smith two reeler is really something.
posted by salishsea at 11:01 PM on February 26, 2014

I'm watching this tonight and had to stop and thank you for Pearl Bailey in old Memphis, for the Eartha Kitt "Yellow Dog" which refers to a busy old time crossing of the Southern and Yazoo railroads at Moorhead, Mississippi. Delta Blues are lullabies to anyone born in the MidSouth as I was. I will watch this all and bookmark it for later. I'm going back to it now, "Careless Love" is on tap! This is a treasure, thank you.
posted by Anitanola at 11:25 PM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

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