AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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New Orleans
Director: Arthur Lubin (Dir)
Release Date:   18 Apr 1947
Production Date:   mid-Sep--early Nov 1946
Duration (in mins):   89
Duration (in feet):   8,010
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Arturo de C√≥rdova (Nick Duquesne)  
    Dorothy Patrick (Miralee Smith)  
    Marjorie Lord (Grace Voiselle)  
    Irene Rich (Mrs. Rutledge Smith)  
    John Alexander (Colonel McArdle)  
    Richard Hageman (Henry Ferber)  
    Jack Lambert (Biff Lewis)  
    Bert Conway (Tommy Lake)  
    Joan Blair (Constance Vigil)  
    John Canady    
    Louis Armstrong   and his band
  and Billie Holiday (Endie)  
    Woody Herman   and His Orchestra
    Original New Orleans Ragtime Band:    
    Zutty Singleton (Drummer)  
    Barney Bigard (Clarinet player)  
    Kid Ory (Trombonist)  
    Bud Scott (Guitarist)  
    Red Callender (Bass player)  
  and Charlie Beal (Piano player)  
    Meade Lux Lewis (Piano man)  
    Papa Mutt Carey    
    Lucky Thompson    

Summary: In 1917, in the Storyville district of New Orleans, Louisiana, Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong plays ragtime music with his band in the basement of the Orpheum cabaret. The cabaret, which also operates as a casino, is owned by Nick Duquesne, the "King of Basin Street." One of Nick's patrons, a wealthy widow named Mrs. Rutledge Smith, from Baltimore, Maryland, is joined in New Orleans by her daughter Miralee, a classically trained singer. Miralee's black maid, Endie, who is Satchmo's girl friend, introduces Miralee to the blues, and takes her to a "jam" session featuring Satchmo and his band. Nick discourages Miralee's love of ragtime because high society considers it immoral, and orders Grace Voiselle, a debutante, who is in love with Nick, to take her home. Jealous of Nick's attention toward Miralee, Grace calls Mrs. Smith and warns her to keep Miralee away from Nick. Mrs. Smith, who earlier had lost ten thousand dollars at the Orpheum, wins it back in roulette and offers it to Nick on the condition that he discourage Miralee's involvement with him. After a month of successfully keeping Miralee out of Basin Street, Nick determines to show her its sordid side to teach her a lesson. At dawn, assuring Nick she has no illusions about him, Miralee kisses him, and they are seen by her mother. Mrs. Smith appeals to her friend, Colonel McArdle, and he has an article printed about the dangers facing unchaperoned debutantes visiting Storyville. He also suggests to the Public Safety Commissioner that he condemn the district. One night, Nick orders Grace, who is drunk, to leave the club, and she is hit by a car and killed. The incident causes a grand jury to order that Storyville be evacuated by the United States Navy. Satchmo and his friends pack up and leave, and Nick makes plans to move to Chicago. Miralee begs Nick to take her with him, and in order to spare her feelings, he accepts an expensive bracelet from Mrs. Smith to make it look as if he never loved Miralee. He returns the bracelet to Henry Ferber, Miralee's music teacher, to give to Mrs. Smith, but she does not tell Miralee. Determined to give up the gambling business in favor of spreading jazz music across the nation, Nick opens the Club Orleans in Chicago, with Satchmo and piano player Meade Lux Lewis as performers of Chicago style blues. Meanwhile, Miralee becomes a famous opera singer in Europe. Eventually, Satchmo and Endie are married, and he and his band tour Europe. In Paris, Satchmo sees Miralee and tells her that Nick returned the bracelet and has been heartbroken ever since. He also tells her that Nick gave up gambling, has a new job as a music agent, and has been busy trying to introduce New York to the blues. Finally, at a concert at Symphony Hall, Miralee surprises Nick by including Woody Herman and his band and Satchmo and his band in the program. For an encore, Miralee sings Endie's old favorite, "New Orleans," for Nick. 

Production Company: Majestic Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: Arthur Lubin (Dir)
  Maurie Suess (Asst dir)
Producer: Jules Levey (Pres)
  Jules Levey (Prod)
  Herbert J. Biberman (Assoc prod)
Writer: Elliot Paul (Scr)
  Dick Irving Hyland (Scr)
  Elliot Paul (Orig story)
  Herbert J. Biberman (Orig story)
Photography: Lucien Andriot (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Rudi Feld (Art dir)
Film Editor: Bernard W. Burton (Ed supv)
Costumes: Teddy Barri (Women's cost des)
  Elmer Ellsworth (Ward)
Music: Nat W. Finston (Mus dir)
  Leon Klatzkin (Mus ed)
Sound: Roy Meadows (Sd rec)
  Roy Raguse (Sd rec)
Special Effects: Nick Carmona (Spec eff)
Make Up: Karl Herlinger (Makeup)
  Peggy Shannon (Hairdresser)
Production Misc: Joseph H. Nadel (Prod mgr)
Stand In: Theodora Lynch (Singing voice for Dorothy Patrick)
  Artie Schutt (Pianist for Richard Hageman)
Country: United States

Songs: "New Orleans," "The Blues Are Brewin'" and "Endie," music by Louis Alter, lyrics by Eddie Delange; "Where the Blues Were Born in New Orleans," music by Bob Carleton, words by Cliff Dixon; "Farewell to Storyville," music and lyrics by Spencer Williams.
Composer: Spencer Williams
  Louis Alter
  Bob Carleton
  Eddie DeLange
  Cliff Dixon

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Majestic Productions, Inc. 18/4/1947 dd/mm/yyyy LP999

PCA NO: 12164
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

Genre: Musical
Sub-Genre: Historical
Subjects (Major): African Americans
  Band leaders
  Class distinction
  Jazz music
  New Orleans (LA)--Storyville
  Opera singers
Subjects (Minor): Automobile accidents
  Chicago (IL)
  Gambling houses
  Grand juries
  Mothers and daughters
  New York City
  Nightclub owners
  Opera singers

Note: Louis Armstrong is listed twice in the opening credits, once as "Louis Armstrong and his band" and once as a member of the New Orleans Ragtime Band. The opening credits include a "grateful acknowledgement" to the National Jazz Foundation based in New Orleans for its assistance in the production of the picture. New Orleans marked the first and only feature film appearance by renowned blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday. The Var review commented about musician Louis Armstrong's acting: "...'Satchmo' Armstrong is the star of the film, proving as solid in a generous dramatic role as he is on the trumpet." Portions of the film were shot on location in New Orleans, LA, including the front steps of the city hall building, which, as reported in the NYT , had remained unchanged since 1917. According to a HR news item, musical director Nat Finston organized a group called the Ensemble Symphonique to record the music for the film.
       A soundtrack album of the film was released in 1983 and included complete versions of the songs performed in the film, as well as numbers that were omitted from the final release. Among the many numbers found on the album are "Tiger Rag" by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band; "Milenberg Joys" by Leon Rappolo, Paul Mares and "Jelly Roll" Morton; "King Porter Stomp" by "Jelly Roll" Morton; "Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble" by Spencer Williams; "Basin Street Blues," music and lyrics by Spencer Williams; "Beale Street Blues," music by Chris Smith, lyrics by Jim Burris; and "Dipper Mouth Blues," music by Joe "King" Oliver, lyrics by Walter Melrose.
       New Orleans was the last Hollywood film produced by Herbert J. Biberman, who was one of the "Hollywood Ten," a group of directors, producers, writers and actors who were blacklisted after refusing to state their political alliances during testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). After being charged with contempt of Congress, Biberman served six months in jail. Biberman did not make another film until the 1954 independent picture Salt of the Earth , which received great acclaim in Europe. For more information on the HUAC hearings, please see the entry above for the 1947 RKO picture Crossfire

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   3 May 1947.   
Daily Variety   25 Apr 47   p. 3.
Down Beat   21 May '47   p. 7.
Film Daily   25 Apr 47   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jul 46   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Sep 46   p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Nov 46   p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Apr 47   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jun 1947.   
Independent Film Journal   28 Sep 46   p. 43.
The Mississippi Rag   Feb 84   p. 12.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   3 May 1947.   
New York Times   3 Nov 1946.   
New York Times   20 Jun 47   p. 25.
Variety   30 Apr 47   p. 10.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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