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According to reviews, this film is loosely based on the life of cornet player Bix Beiderbecke, a renowned jazz musician of the 1920s and 1930s. Beiderbecke first learned to play the piano before taking up the cornet at fourteen. In the 1920s, he played with The Wolverines, and later joined Paul Whiteman's band. Beiderbecke drank heavily and in late 1929, he left Whiteman's band permanently and returned to Davenport to convalesce. He died in 1931, at the age of twenty-eight, from lobar pneumonia and edema of the brain. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter on October 10, 1941, Producer Benjamin Glazer's next production was to be an adaptation of Dorothy Baker's best-selling novel on Beiderbecke, with a screenplay to be written by himself and Theodore Reed. Reed was said to be set to direct the project, which was being offered to various studios. It has not been determined at what point Glazer and Reed's participation in the project ended.
According to contemporary sources, Warner Bros. studio musician Larry Sullivan coached Kirk Douglas so that his trumpet playing would look realistic on screen. Harry James played Douglas' trumpet solos offscreen, and Jimmy Zito dubbed those of Juano Hernandez. According to publicity material, several well-known jazz musicians of the day, including Bumps Meyers, George Washington, Oscar Bradley, Rocky Robinson and Zutty Singleton performed in the film's background bands. Scenes were filmed on location at the Aragon Ballroom in Ocean Park, the ballroom of the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel, a Skid Row midnight mission and a black church in East Los Angeles, according to publicity material. Some background scenes were filmed in New York City. Contemporary reviews noted that James's commercial sound was out of character for a supposedly avant garde jazz musician like "Rick Martin."