Syncopation


1h 28m 1942
Syncopation

Brief Synopsis

A young trumpeter rises through the jazz world and finds love.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Band Played On
Genre
Drama
Documentary
Musical
Music
Release Date
May 22, 1942
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Chicago, Illinois, United States; New York City, New York, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,915ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

In New Orleans in 1906, the Congo Square Building, formerly the site of slave auctions, now serves as an African-American employment bureau. Nearby, in an African- American college of music, an instructor is teaching his pupils to play Bach. Seven-year-old Reggie Tearbone, who is learning to play the cornet, is unable to follow the sheet music, however, and after playing a few bars, begins to improvise a jazz composition. Reggie lives with his mother Ella, who is employed as a servant in the home of architect George Latimer, a member of the once aristocratic but now impoverished Latimer family. One day, Latimer's old friend, Steve Porter, comes to visit from Chicago, accompanied by his son Paul. Upon learning of Latimer's financial problems, Porter persuades the architect and his young daughter Kit to go back home to Chicago with him. Ella accompanies the family, but Reggie, who has secured a job playing in King Jeffers' Basin Street Band, remains in New Orleans. As the family travels up the Mississippi River, they hear the music of Memphis and St. Louis. By 1916, a new style of jazz has developed out of Ragtime. On Kit's seventeenth birthday, Latimer and the Porters leave her to celebrate alone while they entertain some clients. Lonely, Kit wanders out onto the street and there meets Johnny Schumacher, a struggling young cornetist. Johnny takes Kit to a party at the apartment of musical promoter Smiley Jackson, and when Kit incites a riot with her New Orleans-style piano playing, she is arrested. At her trial, Kit is acquitted when she wins over the jury with a rousing rendition of boogie-woogie piano. The advent of World War I transforms both American music and the Latimer family. When the war forces the closure of Basin Street, Reggie, now known as "Rex Tearbone, King of the Cornet," travels to Chicago with Jackson, now a successful music impresario. Paul, now engaged to Kit, bids her farewell as he goes off to war. After Paul is killed in combat, Johnny and Kit realize that they love each other. Soon after the war ends, they are married, and Johnny gets a job on the road, playing in a large jazz orchestra. Kit, protesting that he will never be happy playing the circumscribed repetoire of the orchestra, refuses to travel with him. Becoming disillusioned when he is denied his promised featured spot in the band, Johnny quits and, after wandering around finds new musical inspiration in the hobo "jungles." He receives an offer from Smiley, who is now a successful booker for whom Kit is working, to come to New York. There he reconciles with Kit, while Smiley arranges some bookings for his new band. At first, Johnny's new sound is a failure, then his audience realizes its dance potential. Dubbed "swing," Johnny's music revolutionizes the sound of jazz, and all ends happily for Kit and Johnny as they listen to a jam session featuring several great jazz musicians.

Cast

Adolphe Menjou

George Latimer

George Bancroft

Mr. [Steve] Porter

Todd Duncan

Rex Tearbone

Connie Boswell

Café singer

Ted North

Paul Porter

Frank Jenks

Smiley Jackson

Jessie Grayson

Ella [Tearbone]

Mona Barrie

Lillian

Lindy Wade

Paul Porter as a child

Peggy Mcintyre

Kit Latimer as a child

Jackie Cooper

Johnny [Schumacher]

Bonita Granville

Kit Latimer

The All American Dance Band

Charlie Barnet

Benny Goodman

Harry James

Jack Jenny

Gene Krupa

Alvino Rey

Joe Venuti

Hall Johnson Choir

Robert Benchley

Doakes

Walter Catlett

Spelvin

Charles Collins

Fred Freddy

Jack Thompson

Reggie Tearbone

Sherrill Luke

Reggie's friend

Walter Baldwin

Tom Jones

Jeff Corey

Kit's attorney

Rex Stewart

King Jeffers

Clinton Rosemond

Professor Topeka

Frank Mcglynn

Simon Goodwill

Maurice Cass

Archibald Travers

Edwin Stanley

Goodwill's attorney

Bob Mckenzie

Bartender at party

Thelma White

Singer at party

Martha Bamattre

Polish woman

Al Roberts

Juggler

James Clemons

Dancer

Emory Parnell

Judge

Frank Darien

Court bailiff

Madame Borget

Jury woman

Billy Reed

Drunk dancer

Charles Flynn

Army officer

Frank O'connor

Railroad conductor

J. Louis Johnson

Preacher

Ralph Dunn

Police officer

Bill Lally

Police officer

Sonny Bupp

Boy

Mimi Doyle

Jackson's secretary

Eddie Hart

Military policeman

John Hamilton

Mr. Ames

Lillian West

Ames's secretary

Michael Audley

Bartender

Robert Dudley

Bartender

Tommy Quinn

Man in guard house

Jane Patten

Girl in canteen

Dick Paxton

Joe

Sidney Miller

Herbert

Joe Brown Jr.

Bill

Jack Finch

Al

Joe Bernard

Old hobo

Reginald Barlow

Hobo reading paper

Bobby Stebbins

Page boy

Hollis Jewell

Young hobo

William J. O'brien

Singing hobo

Frank Mills

Taxi driver

Mickey Simpson

Policeman at country club

Joe Devlin

House detective

Spec O'donnell

Messenger boy

Hallene Hill

Salvation Army worker

John Tettemer

Salvation Army worker

Dudley Dickerson

Musician

Gordon Hart

Eddie

Armando And Lita

Dance team

Leith Stevens

Ted Browning

Effie Parnell

Woman in bookstore

Jerry Housner

Cockeye

Dewey Robinson

Henchman

Earle Hodgins

Slave auctioneer

Gus Glassmire

Floor walker

Kenneth Terrell

Gangster

Edward Dew

Gangster

Max Wagner

Gangster

Charles Sullivan

Gangster

Sammy Stein

Gangster

Jeanette Bradley

Cockeye's girl

Gertrude Messinger

Bride

Jack Stewart

Doorman

Dolly Jarvis

Potter's girl

Francisco Maran

Mario

Charles Moore

Sunny Boyne

Louis Adlon

Film Details

Also Known As
The Band Played On
Genre
Drama
Documentary
Musical
Music
Release Date
May 22, 1942
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Chicago, Illinois, United States; New York City, New York, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,915ft (9 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was The Band Played On. In the opening onscreen credits, the actors are listed as "In front of the camera," and the names of the production crew are listed, without their specific jobs, as working "In back of the camera." Specific credits appear at the end of the film. According to pre-production news items in Hollywood Reporter, RKO originally allotted seventy-two days to shoot this film, but had to speed up production so that Ted North and Adolphe Menjou could start shooting the Twentieth Century-Fox film Roxie Hart (see below). Jack Briggs was tested for one of the leads in the picture, according to another Hollywood Reporter news item, and Ethel Waters was signed to appear, according to a Daily Variety news item. Neither actor appeared in the released film, however. Other news items in Hollywood Reporter note that background shots were filmed in Chicago and New York. According to a February 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item, writer Philip Yordan was originally hired to work only as technical advisor on one sequence of the film, but was granted screen credit with Frank Cavett after it was established that he contributed to the entire screenplay.
       According to materials contained in the RKO Archives Production Information Files at the UCLA Arts Library-Special Collections, legendary trumpet player Bunny Berigan was hired, early in January 1942, to dub the cornet passages which had been filmed earlier using guide tracks. However, that was not an easy task to perform and a modern source suggests that Berigan, who was battling alcoholism and would die six months later, May have had part or all of his work redone by George Thow. Rex Stewart, cornet player with the Duke Ellington band, appears in the film in a role apparently modeled on Joe (King) Oliver. The film's musical director, Leith Stevens, appears in the film as orchestra leader "Ted Browning." Among the many compositions performed in part in the film are "You Made Me Love You," "St. Louis Blues," "Copenhagen," "Jazz Me Blues," "Sugarfoot Stomp" and "Blow Your Trumpet, Gabriel."
       The RKO Script Collection, also at UCLA, contains a dialogue continuity, dated November 29, 1941, which appears to be a record of a first cut, made as the film was finishing shooting, and is minus titles, montages and the climactic jam session. That assembly ran 13,118 feet or 146 minutes. As evidenced by the inclusion in the Call Bureau Cast Service list of several characters who do not appear in the film including those portrayed by Robert Benchley and Walter Catlett, the film was severely cut before its release at a running time of 88 minutes. Among the sequences filmed, but cut, was one in which "Johnny" finds his musical inspiration while living with hoboes.
       An Los Angeles Times news item adds that a nationwide contest in Saturday Evening Post determined which jazz musicians would perform in this film. This picture is not related to the 1929 RKO film Syncopation (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.5570).