For Reel

King of Jazz (1930)
October 26, 2016, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: John Murray Anderson
3.5 Stars
king-of-jazzAnxious to capitalize on the success of early musicals but failing to have the right name stars under contract for such a major production, Universal collaborated with iconic bandleader Paul Whiteman for this ill-fated musical revue. If musicals were all the rage at the time King of Jazz went into production, by the time it was completed a year later audiences were already over them. The film was a significant flop for the studio (thankfully the studio was in the clear after the success of All Quiet on the Western Front), and only now has the musical’s reputation been reconsidered as an unusual curiosity of early sound, 1930s Jazz, and two-strip technicolor. As with many revues, King of Jazz has little plot to speak of, instead evoking a vaudeville show through a series of acts that radically disturb the tone at a moment’s notice. An elegant bridal procession can flow seamlessly into the lowbrow antics of subpar wordplay. Some of the vignettes are either bad or too slight to register, but King of Jazz does allow glimpses at a handful of little-photographed performers, the highlight of which being a hugely sexual contortionist dance number performed by Marion Stattler and Don Rose.

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