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George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 26, 1898. As depicted in the film, he began his musical career selling songs for the Remick publishing company when he was sixteen years old. Later he worked as a rehearsal pianist. When he was twenty, he was commissioned to write the score for La La Lucille and then wrote the music for five of George White's Scandals. He attracted the attention of serious composers with Rhapsody in Blue, which was first played by Paul Whiteman at the Aeolian Hall on February 12, 1924. His opera Porgy and Bess was the first to use an all-black cast. Although Gershwin had many romantic attachments, there was no counterpart in his life to the character of "Julie." He died of a brain tumor at age 38 on 11 July 1937.
This film marked the motion picture debuts of Broadway actors Robert Alda and Herbert Rudley. Although Daily Variety lists the preview running time as 143 minutes, the Variety review gives a running time of 130 minutes. In the film, Al Jolson sings "Swanee," the song he made famous, and Anne Brown, the original "Bess," sings "Summertime" from the opera Porgy and Bess. According to Variety, the unbilled Tom Patricola "reprises 'Somebody Loves Me' as he did in 'Scandals.'" Paul Whiteman also re-creates some of his real-life numbers. Press releases included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library add the following information about the production: Clifford Odets wrote an early version of the screenplay and Robert Rossen was at one time assigned to work on the script from an outline prepared by Ira Gershwin and Kathryn Scola. (Although Odets and Rossen are mentioned in production files for the film, Scola is not.) Five original paintings from George Gershwin's personal art collection were loaned to Warner Bros. for use in the film. These included "Army Doctor" by Amedeo Modigliani; "Abstraction" by Antoine Masson; Georges Roualt's "Three Clowns;" and Maurice de Vlaminck's "Near Paris." Another press release notes that John Garfield was tested for the lead. An July 8, 1945 New York Times article reports that Oscar Levant wanted the filmmakers to include a scene in which he quarrels with George Gershwin-as he frequently did-but the studio thought that an argument would put too much strain on the relationship between the two men as depicted in the film. Hollywood Reporter news items add the following information about the production: Cary Grant was considered for the role of "George Gershwin." Kay Swift worked with Ira Gershwin on the musical arrangements. Oscar Levant dubbed Robert Alda's piano playing. Several theaters, including The Apollo, the Aeolian Hall, Times Square Theater, The Music Box, Carnegie Hall, Lewisohn Stadium, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Auditorium and His Majesty's Theatre in London, were recreated for the film. Nathan Levinson's sound recording was nomimated for an Oscar as was Ray Heindorf and Max Steiner's score. Gershwin's Variety obituary notes that the rights to most of his music were controlled by the Warner Bros. publishing group. In 1946, Hollywood Reporter reported that Chico Marx sued Warner Bros for $200,000 for damages and "payment owed for services rendered." Marx alleged that the filmmakers used his name "many times" in the film. Studio officials admitted that Marx's name had been used in the film, but were unclear about what services the comedian had rendered. The disposition of the suit is not known.
The film received Academy Award nominations in the Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture) and Sound Recording categories. Although modern sources state that Joan Leslie's singing voice was dubbed by Louanne Hogan, Leslie's voice was actually dubbed by Sally Sweetland.