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17 September 2008

Comments

Campaspe
1.

Thanks very much for the kind words, and the link. The Chico Hamilton connection did come up in the open thread at Newcritics but I couldn't remember if we're supposed to believe Marty Milner is a part of the group (which is hard to picture, dontcha think?) or whether they are in the background when he's talking to Falco. Thanks for clearing that up!

I agree, the jazz is an integral part of the movie. A lot of soundtracks from the time seem grafted on, but in SSOS the score is like a metronome for the rhythm of the scenes.

DJA
2.

Milner's corn-fed All-American take on the character of Steve Dallas is definitely a bit incongruous. And Dallas seems curiously well-known around town for a sideman. (I'm guessing there weren't a lot of blind items published about Paul Horn back in the day.) And the idea that rumors of Communism and (gasp!) marijuana use would sink a jazz musician's career seems kind of quaint, given that heroin and jazz were already inextricable in the public's mind in 1957. But I simply take these factors as part of the fabric of the film's alternate reality, where jazz is a lot more mainstream and a lot more respectable than it ever was in our world.

Campaspe
3.

Hmmm, I hadn't thought about that, but it is true that the 1957 public must have been more than used to jazz musicians doing drugs. Still, if the addiction made it into print didn't it hurt the career? Billie Holiday lost her cabaret license. Tell me, what usually happened if a sideman (as opposed to a star like Holiday or Parker) was caught--jail, then back to performing?

hope you don't mind the questions. This is an interesting angle and I'd love to hear more of your thoughts.

DJA
4.

Still, if the addiction made it into print didn't it hurt the career?

I don't know precisely what the consequences might have been, but it seems to me that most fans of e.g., Chet Baker were unlikely to have been surprised when he started getting caught up in drug charges. My impression is that public of 1957 would be under the default (and let's face it, not entirely unjustified) impression that all jazz musicians were junkies.

Tell me, what usually happened if a sideman (as opposed to a star like Holiday or Parker) was caught--jail, then back to performing?

Pretty much -- for a good account of this, see Art Pepper's autobiography, Straight Life. Shirley Clarke's The Connection (based on Jack Gelber's play) is another interesting, near-contemporaneous cultural document, based in part on the experience of saxophonist Jackie McLean.

In the real world, I think it's incredibly unlikely that a club owner would have fired a musician on account of a scurrilous rumor that one of his sidemen had red sympathies and liked to smoke a little reefer now and then. That would have seemed positively wholesome (not to mention old-fashioned) compared to what everybody else on the scene was up to.

Campaspe
5.

You've convinced me. Almost every movie, no matter how hard-edged, fudges reality in some manner. In this case, the mere mention of marijuana would have been prohibited under the Production Code up until the previous year. Joseph Breen, who left the Hays Office in 1954, didn't want anything suggesting anyone ever did drugs, basically. So Odets and Lehman must have figured that in the "movie world" of 1957 marijuana could be presented as serious stuff, even if in the real jazz world it was silly.

I guess it's also possible that they were naive, but given Lehman's career as a press agent I highly doubt that!

DJA
6.

So Odets and Lehman must have figured that in the "movie world" of 1957 marijuana could be presented as serious stuff

I think you are exactly right. I also think that it might be a bit of a wink and a nod at the audience -- "We have to say 'marijuana,' but we know you in the audience are hip enough to understand that we are really talking about heroin."

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