Cast & Crew
Early one morning, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies rush to an apartment building near the Sunset Strip, where they find Jane Tafford unconscious from a bullet wound to her shoulder. Jane's body was found by neighbor Paulette Ardrey, who reveals the identity of a man in one of Jane's photographs. A short time later, detectives from the sheriff's office arrive at the home of Delwyn "Sonny" Johnson and find him shot to death. Deputies then go to see Stanley Maxton, the man Paulette identified, and take him to headquarters. Lt. Detective Bonnabel questions Stan about the shootings, and he reveals that Jane had been his girl until she started seeing Sonny, who used to be his boss. He then tells Bonnabel about Sonny: Following military service in Korea, Stan is released from a Kansas veteran's hospital and heads to Los Angeles to work as a drummer. On the way, his car is hit by Sonny, who pays for the damages and, in Los Angeles, offers Stan a job as a phone man at his bookie joint. One day, deputies raid the place, but Stan gets away by sneaking out a window and running onto the Strip. He then talks his way into a car driven by Jane, who tells him that she is a dancer at Fluff's Dixieland nightclub. One night, Sonny goes to Fluff's and meets Jane again. He is infatuated with her and after closing time asks her out. Jane, who only wants to date men who can help her aspiring acting career, asks the kindly Fluff to say that he does not approve of Stan, but Fluff is so impressed when he sees Stan's drumming that he offers him a job. Although flattered, Stan declines, saying that he has a high-paying position in an insurance company. Encouraged by Fluff, who needs Stan to replace the club's recently drafted drummer, Jane lets Stan take her home and says that they could see each other often if he worked at Fluff's. Stan is reluctant at first, because Sonny pays him a lot, but decides that Jane, and the chance to work as a drummer, are more important. Sonny agrees to let Stan quit, and gives him money, but warns him to forget everything. Fluff is happy to have Stan at the club, but is concerned that he is going to be hurt by Jane's ambition. One afternoon, Stan goes to see Jane after buying her a new hat. While he is at her apartment, Paulette drops by and asks Jane to babysit her son Artie while she goes to an audition. Stan has bragged that he has a friend who might have connections in the movie industry, so Jane urges him to introduce her. As the three drive to Sonny's, they are involved in a minor accident when the unruly Artie steps on the car accelerator. Stan is happy that Sonny is impressed with Jane, but points out that she is his girl. At dinner that night, Stan talks to Jane about their future and she realizes that he is proposing. She thanks him for his help, but tells him that becoming a star is the most important thing in her life. Stan soon becomes a hit at Fluff's nightclub, but becomes jealous when he realizes that Jane is seeing a lot of Sonny. Against Fluff's good advice, Stan starts to follow Sonny and Jane, until one morning when he is visited by Baer and Boynton, Sonny's henchmen. They offer him money and say that Sonny wants him to head his Phoenix office right away. Stan declines, but is frightened enough to tell Fluff he is quitting. Fluff counsels Stan to stand up to Sonny, or risk having a life of fear, so he goes to Sonny and threatens to tell everything to the police. Stan then rushes to Jane's apartment, but when he arrives, only Baer and Boynton are waiting for him. They hit Stan, then take him for a ride. During the drive, as Stan remembers Artie's prank, he steps on the accelerator and causes an accident that enables him to get away. He then goes to Fluff's to warn Jane and tell her that he has to leave town. Although Jane does not love Stan, she feels responsible for his problems and promises to straighten things out with Sonny. As Stan ends his story, he tells Bonnabel that he remained at Fluff's, then went home shortly before the deputies arrived that morning. Just then, Bonnabel receives a phone call from the hospital. Although the doctor tells him that Jane is still alive, but has not regained consciousness, Bonnabel tells Stan that Jane has confessed to Sonny's murder. An agitated Stan then says that it was he who killed Sonny. Bonnabel goes to Fluff, who is unaware of what has happened, but corroborates Stan's original story. Later that afternoon, Bonnabel shows Stan Jane's signed statement revealing that she shot Sonny in self-defense, and tells him that he is free to go. When Stan asks about Jane, Bonnabel reveals that she did wake up and give a confession, but died a short time later. He then accompanies Stan to Fluff's, where everyone is happy to see Stan take his place onstage.
Earl "fatha" Hines
Fred Datig Jr.
Betty Jane Howarth
A. Arnold Gillespie
Haven Gillespie Ii
Oscar Hammerstein Ii
W. C. Handy
Earl "fatha" Hines
Alfred E. Spencer
Edwin B. Willis
According to Mickey Rooney in his autobiography, Life is Too Short (Villard Books), The Strip was made during a low point in his career and there were a lot of those. But he admitted, "it was work and I needed work. I played a drummer in a band who is falsely accused of murdering a racketeer. This was a low-budget musical with a low-budget story. But there was good music in it....The Strip made only a little more than it cost ($885,000) and I brought in just enough to pay a few outstanding bills. Then I was back where I started, waiting to see if MGM could use me again. When it was clear that Metro couldn't, or wouldn't, I signed a three-picture deal with Harry Cohn and Jonie Taps at Columbia at $75,000 a picture. But it wasn't the money that attracted me. It was the presence at Columbia of Dick Quine, who was being given one of his first chances to direct. And he was going to direct me, his old buddy. Cohn and Taps ordered Quine's friend, Blake Edwards, to do the script, a service movie called Sound Off." [It was released in 1952 but that's another story].
While The Strip might not be Rooney's finest hour or one of the more distinguished noirs produced by MGM, it certainly deserves a place in film history, if only for its unique showcasing of several jazz giants. How many other films can you name where Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard and Page Cavanaugh all appear together, playing themselves in a fictional nightclub setting? For jazz aficionados, the film is a total delight from Armstrong opening his act with "Shadrock" to Teagarden performing "Basin Street Blues." In addition, a very young Vic Damone warbles "Don't Blame Me" and "La Bota," an upbeat, Latin-influenced novelty, is sung by nightclub diva Monica Lewis. The song, "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," received an Oscar nomination for Best Song and is performed three times in the course of the film; first, as a duet between Rooney and William Demarest (yes, you read that right), then by the club's hat-check girl during a rehearsal, and finally by Armstrong who nails it for all time. There's also some frenetic dancing on display, showcasing Sally Forrest's athletic form and some hipster, finger-popping male dancers.
Rooney would go on to play other decent guys caught up in unfortunate circumstances in films like A Slight Case of Larceny (1953) and Drive a Crooked Road (1954) but The Strip has an existential tone these later films lack. Robert Porfirio said it best in Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style (Overlook Press) when he wrote, "Rooney's performance as the musician whose pain makes him withdraw into his music, looks backward to Tom Neal as Al Roberts in Detour  and forward to Charles Aznavour as Charlie Koeller in Shoot the Piano Player ."
Producer: Joe Pasternak
Director: Leslie Kardos
Screenplay: Allen Rivkin
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Leonid Vasian
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Editing: Albert Akst
Music: Oscar Hammerstein II, Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, George Stoll
Cast: Mickey Rooney (Stanley Maxton), Sally Forrest (Jane Tafford), William Demarest (Fluff), James Craig (Delwyn "Sonny" Johnson), Kay Brown (Edna), Tommy Rettig (Artie), Tom Powers (Detective Bonnabel).
BW-86m. Closed captioning.
by Jeff Stafford
In the opening credits Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra are included in the cast, above "Guest Stars" Vic Damone and Monica Lewis, but Armstrong is not included in the end credits. Pete Rugolo, who is credited with Leo Arnaud with the film's orchestrations, was a well-known jazz arranger. As noted in a voice-over narration, the area of Los Angeles known as the "Sunset Strip" was an unincorporated part of Los Angeles county that surrounded Sunset Blvd., west of Hollywood and east of Beverly Hills. Because the area was not part of the city of Los Angeles, it was policed by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. In 1984, Sunset Blvd. and surrounding areas were incorporated into the new city of West Hollywood. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, and confirmed by the film, much of the picture was shot on location in and around the Sunset Strip. Interiors were shot at popular nightclubs Mocambo and Ciro's and at restaurants Little Hungary and Stripps. A news item in the Los Angeles Evening Herald and Express noted that the "La Bota" number, featuring Marcia Lewis, was filmed inside Ciro's.
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Bob Spencer, Helen Spring, Michael Dugan and Eddie Polo were in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been verified. A May 31, 1951 Hollywood Reporter "Rambling Reporter" column indicated that Sammy Gordon was planning to sue M-G-M, which used his nightclub for interiors of the film, but failed to show the exterior, as promised, even though "every other place on the Strip had their names prominently displayed."
In addition to the numbers performed in the released film, jazz instrumentals that were recorded by Louis Armstrong but cut from the production included "Ain't Misbehavin'" by Fats Waller and Harry Brooks, "One O'Clock Jump" by Count Basie and "I'm Coming, Virginia" by Donald Heywood. Those numbers, plus several songs from the film were included in the CD-anthology album "Now You Has Jazz: Louis Armstrong at M-G-M," released in 1997. "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song, but "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," from the Paramount film Here Comes the Groom won the award.