6/21/13: The Fabulous Dorseys


The Rave Cinema Classics Program for which I was the host sadly came to an end on Monday, 6/24/13. I’m optimistic about a similar role for the Cinemark Classics Program which I’ve yet to pitch to the General Manager there. The final Rave Cinema Classic was about ‘the sentimental gentleman of swing’ & his older brother. And there were no issues in the Marino household with Cindy not screening the Classic with me this week. She actually introduced the ‘40’s big bands to me when we first started dating in ‘77. Swing was BIG in the Vance household, especially Glenn Miller and the Dorseys. My wife’s family is Irish. My family is Italian. “There’s only one thing worse than being Irish, and that’s not being Irish”. While they were growing up listening to Mom & Dad’s swing records, we were listening to Enrico Caruso & Mario Lanza. With such a well-rounded upbringing for the appreciation of music, it’s no wonder that I love Jerry Garcia & the Grateful Dead! 

Dorseys - Miller    Dorseys - Brothers    Dorseys - Caruso

Dorseys - Lanza    Dorseys - Jerry

I was honored to host Alfred E. Green’s The Fabulous Dorseys, a slightly fictionalized biopic of Tommy & his 1 year older brother Jimmy. It begins in Shenandoah PA when the boys are about 10 & 11. Tommy & Jimmy as youths  are played by Bobby Warde & Buz Buckley, respectively, in uncredited roles. Their music teacher father (Arthur Shields) instructs them & makes them practice regularly. The boys argue & fight a lot foreshadowing their infamous on stage breakup. Although the Fabulous Dorseys received no accolades, the original music on it is by: Leo Shuken, who was nominated for an Oscar for The Unsinkable Molly Brown 1965 at the 37th Academy Awards and won for co-writing the Score to Stagecoach 25 years earlier; and 5 time Oscar Nominee, Louis Forbes. Neither gentleman is credited on the motion picture. 

Dorseys - Boys Dorseys - Father Dorseys - Shuken Dorseys - Forbes

I want to talk a little about the younger, more famous brother, Tommy Dorsey. He acted in a number of films & performs off camera or his music is included on the soundtrack of many more. Notably: His 1930 rendition of Sleepy Lagoon is on 4-time Oscar winning Best Picture, Woody Allen’s 1977 comic masterpiece Annie Hall; Song of India can be heard in 7 different motion pictures, including the opening sequence of Martin Scorsese’s New York New York, also released 1977 from the same year; it’s also performed in Ralph Murphy’s 1941 Oscar nominated Las Vegas Nights, which features a configuration of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra that included Frank Sinatra singing I’ll Never Smile Again. Do you remember in The Godfather when Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) tells his future wife Kay (Diane Keaton) how his father got Johnny Fontane, the Frank Sinatra-like character (Al Martino), out of his contract with a bandleader. Well that’s based on the true story. When Sinatra tried to buy out of his contract with Dorsey for $60000, Tommy refused because they were playing packed houses with Sinatra crooning in the band. So Frank used his Mafia connections & mob boss Willie Moretti “made Tommy an offer he couldn’t refuse”. As the story goes, Moretti himself put a gun in Tommy’s mouth & he voided the contract for $1. But don’t plan on seeing that scene played out in Alfred E. Green’s The Fabulous Dorseys when you watch the film, linked below. 3 Stars!

Dorseys - Tommy    Dorseys - Sinatra    Dorseys - Michael & Kay Dorseys - The Don    Dorseys - Fontane    Dorseys - Moretti


2 thoughts on “6/21/13: The Fabulous Dorseys

  1. Italian and Irish are a good blend. 🙂 I like the way you got Jerry in with all those other swinging cats.

    I saw The Glenn Miller Story (with Jimmy Stewart); the Benny Goodman Story (Steve Allen), and The Fabulous Dorseys all in fairly close succession in the early days of video rental (VHS). I was trying to school myself on jazz and swing, and the abundance of music in all (albeit in snippets, rather than full songs) was good background. Even better were the cameos (in the Goodman and Dorsey flicks, at least) by actual musicians who played with the title stars. Lionel Hampton and Gene Krupa show up in the Goodman story, and Art Tatum and others in the Dorseys’ — playing themselves and playing their instruments. It was Hollywoodized — synced to prerecorded music, not “real” performance, but still cool to see.

    Which brings me ’round to Tommy and Jimmy playing themselves in The Fabulous Dorsey’s. Born actors, they weren’t. 🙂

    • True, but I do love this movie. The music is great. Some of the performances likewise. And researching it brought me to The Godfather. It was Cindy who, while watching the flick & helping me de-brief the data, when we hit upon Sinatra’s time fronting the band, made the connection. You should have seen how proud Kimmie was of her when I told her the leap she made affording me the opportunity to research & confirm her theory. It was hilarious.

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