Friday, September 14, 2018

THE SECOND LAUREN BACALL BLOGATHON: Young Man with a Horn (1950)


Crystal is sharing her personal connection to Lauren Bacall on her site In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood with The Second Lauren Bacall Blogathon which you can access by clicking HERE.

Lauren Bacall plays Amy North, a wealthy young woman who describes herself as "an intellectual mountain goat, leaping from crag to crag, trying everything." Those of us who observe this character may come up with another, less complimentary yet worthy description.

Amy is friends with popular singer Jo Jordan played by Doris Day. Jo wants to introduce Amy to "that crazy musician I talk about all the time." Rick Martin played by Kirk Douglas is a trumpet player whom Jo first met when they worked together in a dance band. Jo is crazy about Rick. Rick only has eyes for his trumpet and jazz. Amy North is about to blow up all of that. Why? Because she can.

Doris Day, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall

Amy has a troubled background relating to her mother's suicide and her distant relationship with her father, a noted psychiatrist. Amy is currently studying to be a doctor. She explains to Rick that she likes to learn what makes people tick, especially artists like him. Of course, this is only a phase. Amy is too self-absorbed to truly consider others. Amy has attempted many things in her life while accomplishing nothing. She is jealous of those who seem to truly know themselves or have a talent. Perhaps it is this jealousy that leads to her destructiveness. She is certainly a destructive force in Rick's life, and he did not need that.

Kirk Douglas, Juano Hernandez

Orphaned at a young age and under the neglectful care of an older sister played by Mary Beth Hughes, Rick Martin grew up on the streets, avoiding school and society. Happenstance led him to discover a talent for and love of music. Luck or fate led him to the orbit of a respected jazz player, Art Hazzard played by Juano Hernandez. Art became everything to Rick, a teacher, and a father. As Rick reached adulthood, Art looked at the young man and realized that his obsession with music had left him with nothing else. Advice that there could and should be more to life was too little and too late to keep Rick off of a rocky road.

Click HERE to see the beginning of the relationship of young Rick played by Orley Lindgren and Art Hazzard played by Juano Hernandez.

Amy and Rick marry. Why? Amy is the sort who wants to experience everything. Rick thought it was love. Neither individual connected fully, emotionally. Rick tried to share his music, but that only bored Amy. Rick didn't fit in with Amy's society crowd; he didn't even try. Amy sought companionship elsewhere with a new friend, a female artist who becomes her new obsession. Amy decides to divorce Rick to enjoy a new Bohemian lifestyle in Europe.

Rick had turned away from friends and his music for Amy. He shunned his mentor Art and the love and light offered by Jo. He was devasted and had begun to drink heavily. Amy's final act of destruction was to smash the Art Hazzard records Rick had lovingly collected for years. Rick lost his job and his soul. He lost his health and began a downward spiral.


The screenplay for Young Man With a Horn is by Carl Foreman (High Noon) and Edmund H. North (Colorado Territory) based in the same-titled 1938 novel by Dorothy Baker. Ms. Baker fashioned her novel on the short life of legendary jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931).


Michael Curtiz directed this film, one of many biopics to his credit, and the dramatic story and the music that is such an integral part of it are seamlessly bound with much credit going to a strong collaboration with musical director Ray Heindorf. Ted McCord's glorious black and white cinematography paints a gritty, noirish world for a film that, for a large part of its telling, is steeped in memory, but not nostalgia.

Hoagy Carmichael

Hoagy Carmichael, a close friend of Bix Beiderbecke's is featured in Young Man With a Horn as Rick's friend and the narrator of the story.

"My name is Willie Willoughby, but they call me Smoke. I play piano in a run-of-the-mill dance band. Kind of monotonous. But there were times when I got my kicks. Not so long ago either. Like when I palled around with Rick Martin, the famous trumpet player. What a guy. ... Of course, Rick is practically a legend now. People ask me about him and those times. Ordinarily, I don't talk much about it. But I think a lot about it."


Bix Beiderbecke
1903 - 1931

The ending of Young Man With a Horn deviates from that of the novel and of Bix Beiderbecke's tragic life. The rest of the movie is not set up for the reversal which disturbs this viewer. Perhaps in some way, it was a bittersweet comfort to Bix's friends.

Harry James, Kirk Douglas

The soundtrack to Young Man With a Horn features great versions of jazz standards with Harry James playing the trumpet for the Martin character. James also tutored Douglas on how to look authentic as a trumpet player.


Columbia released an album of the songs with Doris Day and Harry James which spent a total of 11 weeks at Billboard's number one spot.


Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall enjoyed a lifelong friendship which dated back to student days at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Betty Bacall was instrumental in introducing to Kirk to Hal Wallis to kickstart his Hollywood career. The two actors were reaching heights of success they had dreamed of and worked for when they were paired in this 1950 drama.












19 comments:

  1. I wasn't sure if I had seen this or not until you mentioned Hoagy Carmichael as the narrator. I remember that much.

    Didn't know Bacall and Douglas were such good friends. That's nice.

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    1. The friendship is nice. It quite warms my heart.

      I'm very fond of this movie and it all starts with the music. Sometimes I think Hoagy Carmichael should have narrated everything.

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  2. Great write up. I know this is a Lauren Bacall post, but Doris Day is dynamite in this one. She just glows. And her singing, "The Very thought of You" and "With a Song in my Heart" are highlights. Every time she's onscreen my attention goes to her.

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    1. Doris is one of my favourite singers and actresses. Her character is a beacon of light in this dark tale.

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  3. Paddy Lee, another good write-up. It has been years since I last saw YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN. I liked it because of the actors,actresses, and the music. I agree with reocean in that every time Doris Day is on the screen my attention goes to her. She is one of the truely great ones.

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    1. Until Lauren's passing in 2014 we were lucky in the knowledge that the three leads of this great picture were still with us. Amazingly, Doris and Kirk still shine.

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  4. Don't know why I've never seen this movie. With this cast you can't go wrong. The whole movie sounds great and I will now go and see if I can find it.

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    1. I am certain you will be impressed. As the hubby says, "Michael Curtiz always entertains."

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  5. When it comes to dramas, I'm either bored or hooked, there is no in-between. Young Man with a Horn hooks me every time, without fail. The soundtrack is absolutely glorious, the direction is wonderful, and the cast is top-notch. It also makes me really wish that Hoagy Carmichael could narrate my life.

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    1. It's a dandy!

      Perhaps I would live a more interesting life if I imagined Hoagy narrating it all. H'm. Worth a try.

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  6. Kirk Douglas always dominates this movie for me...well, Kirk plus Harry James on the trumpet. It was fascinating to learn that the album was so successful; I had no idea!

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    1. Kirk's dominating personality blends remarkably well with this complicated character. You believe he loves the music, and you believe his confusion. That one happy-go-lucky scene with Kirk and Hoagy driving and singing jumps right out at me almost as if it is a personal memory.

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  7. That last picture of Lauren Bacall and Kirk Douglas is such a sweet one. It clearly shows that they were close friends. I find it heart-warming when actors share a good relationship off-screen!

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    1. I agree. The longevity of the relationship is quite heartwarming.

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  8. I love that last photo you posted, of Bacall and Douglas. It's a beautiful testament to friendship.

    I have yet to see this film. I think I've shied away from it because the real life story of Bix Beiderbecke is so sad, but I think I'll be more open to it now that you suggest the ending could be a hopeful one. Thanks!

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    1. It is a very worthwhile movie. I think you will be impressed.

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  9. I love this film, thank you for covering it! I think it’s one of Bacall’s best, and Kirk Douglas too.
    Day sings some lovely songs and lends warm support as Kirk’s pal.
    One of the few films of its era to have two of its three stars—Douglas and Day—alive and kicking. Last time I saw this, Bacall was alive and still works as well...
    - Chris

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    1. It was lovely to know that all three were still with us for such a long time. It helped make the story feel even more real.

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