AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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King of Jazz
Alternate Title: El rey del jazz
Director: John Murray Anderson () (Devised and dir by)
Release Date:   17 Aug 1930
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 2 May 1930
Duration (in mins):   98
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Paul Whiteman   and His Band
    John Boles    
    Laura La Plante    
    Jeanette Loff    
    Glenn Tryon    
    William Kent    
    "Slim" Summerville    
    Merna Kennedy    
    The Rhythm Boys    
    Bing Crosby    
    Harry Barris    
  and Al Rinker    
    Kathryn Crawford    
    Beth Laemmle    
    Stanley Smith    
    Charles Irwin    
    George Chiles    
    Jack White    
    Frank Leslie    
    Walter Brennan    
    Churchill Ross    
    Johnson Arledge    
    Al Norman    
    Jacques Cartier    
    Paul Howard    
    Nell O'Day    
  and The Tommy Atkins Sextette    
    Marion Stattler    
    Don Rose    
    Russell Markert   Girls
    Jeanie Lang    
    Roy Bargy    
    The Sisters G    
    The Brox Sisters    
    Nancy Torres    
    Grace Hayes    
    Yola d'Avril    
    Willie Hall    
    George Sidney    

Summary:        Charles Irwin introduces items from “Paul Whiteman’s Scrap Book,” and in an animated cartoon sequence set “In Darkest Africa,” Whiteman is crowned "King of Jazz" by animals in the African jungle. Whiteman then introduces members of his band and the chorus girls. In the "My Bridal Veil" number, featuring Jeanette Loff and Stanley Smith, a young woman conjures up visions of bridal costumes through the ages. "Ladies of the Press," written by William Griffith, presents Laura La Plante, Jeanie Lang, Merna Kennedy, Grace Hayes and Kathryn Crawford in a short "blackout" sketch. The Rhythm Boys (Bing Crosby, Harry Barris and Al Rinker) perform "So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together." "It Happened in Monterey" features John Boles, Jeanette Loff, The Sisters G, George Chiles and the Russell Markert Girls, and includes a passage of "La Paloma," sung in Spanish by Nancy Torres and Loff. "In Conference," another very brief comedy sketch, presents Laura La Plante, Glenn Tryon and Merna Kennedy. Jack Wright, dressed as “The Property Man” back stage performs a comedy number about wanting to own a fish store. Jeanette Loff, Stanley Smith, The Brox Sisters and The Rhythm Boys appear in the production number "A Bench in the Park." A sketch, "Back of the Western Front," features Yola D’Avril, Walter Brennan, Paul Whiteman and others. Wilbur Hall, “One of the Whiteman Boys,” performs "Pop Goes the Weasel" on a violin and finishes by playing "Stars and Stripes Forever" on a bicycle pump. In an opulent production number, Roy Bargy plays George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" on the piano, accompanied by The Sisters G and Jacques Cartier. A comedy sketch, "Oh! Forever More" with William Kent and Walter Brennan follows. The production number, "My Ragamuffin Romeo," presents Jeanie Lang, George Chiles and dancers Don Rose and Marion Stattler. In the sketch, “A Dash of Spice,” a couple, Glenn Tryon and Kathryn Crawford, discover that they are not legally married. "Happy Feet," a production number, features The Rhythm Boys, The Sisters G and Al Norman. A segment titled “When Legs Were Limbs” featuring Frank Leslie performing the comedy song "Has Anyone Seen Our Nelly?," with the aid of magic lantern slides follows. Then John Boles performs "The Song of the Dawn." The finale, "The Melting Pot of Music," features most of the cast and shows that in America, music from various countries, including England, Italy, Scotland, Ireland, Mexico, Russia and France, is fused into one great new rhythm, Jazz.  

Production Company: Universal Pictures Corp.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Corp.  
Director: John Murray Anderson (Devised and dir by)
  Robert Ross (Asst dir)
Producer: Carl Laemmle (Pres)
  Carl Laemmle Jr. (Prod)
Writer: Edward T. Lowe Jr. (Scr)
  Harry Ruskin (Comedy sketches)
  Charles MacArthur (Dial)
Photography: Hal Mohr (Cine)
  Jerome Ash (Cine)
  Ray Rennahan (Cine)
Art Direction: Herman Rosse (Settings)
  Thomas F. O'Neill (Asst art dir)
Film Editor: Robert Carlisle (Film ed)
  Maurice Pivar (Supv film ed)
Costumes: Herman Rosse (Cost)
Music: Ferde Grofé (Orch)
  James Dietrich (Mus arr)
Sound: C. Roy Hunter (Rec supv)
  Harold I. Smith (Monitor)
Dance: Russell E. Markert (Dance dir)
Animation: Walter Lantz (Anim cartoons)
  Bill Nolan (Anim cartoons)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin.
Songs: "Music Hath Charms," "My Bridal Veil," "A Bench In The Park," "Happy Feet," "I Like To Do Things For You" and "Song Of The Dawn," music by Milton Ager, lyrics by Jack Yellen; "It Happened In Monterey," music by Mabel Wayne, lyrics by Billy Rose; "Ragamuffin Romeo," music by Mabel Wayne, lyrics by Harry De Costa; "So The Bluebirds and The Blackbirds Got Together," music by Harry Barris, lyrics by Billy Moll; "Mississippi Mud," music and lyrics by Harry Barris and James Cavanaugh; "La Paloma," music by Yradier, lyricist undetermined; "Cielito Lindo," traditional.
Composer: Milton Ager
  Harry Barris
  James Cavanaugh
  Harry De Costa
  James Dietrich
  George Gershwin
  Billy Moll
  Billy Rose
  Mabel Wayne
  Jack Yellen
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Corp. 17/5/1930 dd/mm/yyyy LP1318

Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Sound System
  col: Technicolor

Genre: Variety
Subjects (Major): Africa
  Bands (Music)
  Jazz music
  Musical revues
Subjects (Minor): Brides
  Magic lanterns
  Women reporters
  World War I

Note: The main title credits Paul Whiteman and his Band as "Exclusive Columbia Phonograph Artists." Universal produced several versions of the film for different countries, each with its own master and mistress of ceremonies speaking the appropriate language. The foreign-language versions may have featured only the musical numbers and none of the sketches. The Spanish version, El rey del jazz , which was supervised by Paul Kohner and featured "maestros de ceremonias," Lupita Tovar and Martín Garralaga, under the direction of Kurt Neumann, was probably exhibited in the U.S. although exact release information has not been located.
       Other versions that were probably also supervised by Kohner but appear to have had no U.S. exhibition include: the German, Der Jazzkönig , introduced by Arnold Korff and Paula Wedekind, under Neumann's direction; the French, La féerie du Jazz , introduced by André Cheron and Georgette Rhodes; the Portuguese O rei do Jazz , presented by Olimpio Guillerme and Lia Torá and the Italian, Il re del Jazz , presented by Allesandro Giglio and Nella Nelli. The Japanese and Czech versions, the titles of which are undetermined, were introduced by Tetsu Komai and Iris Yamaoka, and Antonin Vaverka, respectively. Modern sources suggest that a Hungarian version may have been introduced by Bela Lugosi.
       Although shot at the time of the original production, the number "I Like to Do Things for You," performed by Jeanie Lang, Grace Hayes, William Kent and dancers Nell O'Day and The Tommy Atkins Sextette, was not included in the premiere version of the film in either the U.S. or in The United Kingdom. It was subsequently added for the film's general release as a "stand-alone" reel designated Reel 2A. The number was intended to appear after "The Bridal Veil" number in the U.S. but likely was seen after the "Happy Feet" number in the U.K. At the time this number was added, some minor picture trims may have been made and some additional sketch material may have been added.
       Contemporary information suggests that some sketches were shot for the English-language original but were subsequently dropped. Files at the USC Cinema-Television Library include stills of a sketch for the film in which George Sidney appears with Charlie Murray. Some sources also include John Fulton and Otis Harlan in the cast, but their appearance in the released film is unconfirmed. Art director Herman Rosse received an Academy Award for his work on the picture. In 1933, Universal reissued the film in a reduced, eight-reel version, largely to exploit the increased popularity of Bing Crosby. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   30 Mar 1930.   
New York Times   23 Nov 1930   p. 6.
Variety   7 May 1930   p. 21.
Variety   7 Jan 1931   p. 36.

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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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