Item Details

When bad things happen to great musicians: The role of ambi-diegetic jazz in three tragedepictions of artistic genius on the silver screen

Issue: Vol 1 No. 1 (2007) May 2007

Journal: Jazz Research Journal

Subject Areas: Popular Music

DOI: 10.1558/jazz.v1i1.99


Earlier work has shown how jazz can deepen the meanings of a cinematic experience; can enrich the development of plot, character, or other dramatic themes in a motion picture; and can contribute to various aspects of a film’s significance. Conversely, the present essay focuses on how this cinemusical process can break down—leading to unsatisfactory or problematic results—especially in a jazz biopic that portrays the life of a great musician. In this connection, dwelling on the dark side of artistic genius, the essay discusses how cinemusical uses of jazz have failed to provide the needed dramatic effects—falling short of conveying the essence of true tragedy—in three major tragedepictions portraying the undeniably sad lives of Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues (1972); of a Lester Young/Bud Powell/Dexter Gordon composite character in ’Round Midnight (1986); and of Charlie Parker in Bird (1988).

Author: Morris B. Holbrook

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