1939 Short

Artie Shaw

A five-song film short by Artie Shaw’s most popular orchestra

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Artie Shaw (1910-2004) had a rather remarkable career as one of jazz’s top clarinetists and bandleaders.

Unlike most of the other swing era bandleaders, Shaw led five different bands during 1936-45; the first one (a smaller group with strings) failed but the other four were successes that Shaw eventually tired of and broke up before soon forming another one.

Also unusual (in addition to being married six times including to three actresses) is that Shaw gave up playing clarinet and music altogether in 1954 when he was just 44 and still in prime form.

His most commercially successful band was during 1938-39, a period when his popularity exceeded everyone else’s including his rival Benny Goodman.

The pressure of being a matinee idol got to him by late 1939 when, to the surprise of everyone, he left his orchestra one night and fled to Mexico for a few months.

Before that happened, he was featured in this film short, a fine all-round showcase for Shaw and his big band.

It includes his moody theme song “Nightmare,” his giant hit version of “Begin The Beguine,” Helen Forrest singing “Let’s Stop The Clock,” a good feature for Shaw on “Nonstop Flight,” and a typically good-humored Tony Pastor vocal on “Proscsschai.”

-Scott Yanow


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