Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
Born in 1910 in New York City, Arthur Jacob Arshawsky, better known to the world as Artie Shaw, went on to become one of the best clarinetists in American music history. Brigitte Berman uses interviews with Shaw, his colleagues, and his last wife Evelyn Keyes to provide needed insights. These are supplemented by Shaw's music and clips from two of the films from the late '30s in which he played himself. Forthright and upbeat, Shaw has weathered many hardships well -- he is best known for the seven wives he married, including Ava Gardner and Lana Turner, though that is not emphasized here. His personal life had many downers, including a low period in 1944 when he had to leave the military for medical reasons, and also a two-month escape for R & R in Mexico -- with the resultant hit "Frenesi" out soon after. He never seems to have held down one band for long, no matter how successful, and is the only big-band leader to have gone through five different bands during the swing era. Lesser-known aspects of Shaw are revealed here that indicate a broad range of interests, including writing. This excellent and informative film won a "Best Documentary" Oscar in 1987.