St. Louis Blues (1958)

Genres - Musical  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature]  |   Run Time - 93 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Those interested in knowing anything about W.C. Handy, the father of the blues, won't find it in St. Louis Blues. As with most Hollywood biopics, especially those concerned with musical figures, Blues plays extremely fast and loose with the truth. Why Hollywood rarely bothered to come up with an interesting story to replace the real ones it tossed aside in these pictures is a mystery; suffice it to say that Blues at least has racial issues to address (even if it does so fairly gingerly), even if it also drags out an unconvincingly crafted religion vs. entertainment debate as well. Blues does, fortunately, have Handy's music, ranging from the classic title song to such worthies as "Aunt Hagar's Blues," "Careless Love," and " "Beale Street Blues." It also has peerless performers such as Mahalia Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, and Nat "King" Cole working their magic on them. Cole, of course, is not really the right performer for Handy's material, despite his titanic talent, and nor is he the best actor for the part; however, his own charm and charisma carry him over the miscasting, and he gets very able support from the likes of Pearl Bailey and Eartha Kitt to help everyone over the bumpier parts. As long as you're not looking for authenticity, Cole and company make St. Louis Blues an enjoyable enough way to pass an a hour and a half.