Rhapsody In Blue (1945) – Rhapsody in Blue Debut

Rhapsody In Blue (1945)
Directed by Irving Rapper, 1945, 141 min

Robert Alda stars alongside musical greats Al Jolson, Paul Whiteman, and Oscar Levant in this biopic treatment of the life of composer George Gershwin. The film traces Gershwin’s rise, from his first big hit “Swanee” (performed by Al Jolson, playing himself), to his collaborations with lyricist brother Ira (Herbert Rudley) to the heights of artistic achievement with the debut of “Rhapsody in Blue” at Aeolian Hall

Starring Robert Alda, Joan Leslie, Alexis Smith

“Rhapsody in Blue” is a musical composition by the American composer George Gershwin, which premiered in 1924, not 1945. The piece is a quintessential example of American music, blending elements of classical music with jazz and blues, and it has become one of Gershwin’s most famous works.

The debut of “Rhapsody in Blue” took place on February 12, 1924, at Aeolian Hall in New York City, during a concert titled “An Experiment in Modern Music” conducted by Paul Whiteman. This concert aimed to showcase the integration of jazz and classical music, and Gershwin was commissioned to compose a piece that would bridge these genres.

The story of the composition’s debut is quite iconic. Legend has it that Gershwin had just a few weeks to compose the piece, and he reportedly wrote much of it on a train journey to Boston. Supposedly, he asked his brother, Ira Gershwin, to telegram him news of any successful reviews, leading to the famous anecdote that Ira sent a message saying, “Success.” Gershwin then supposedly incorporated this telegram into the score, with a clarinet glissando representing the sound of the train’s whistle.

“Rhapsody in Blue” was an instant success, both critically and commercially, and it marked a significant moment in American music history. Its innovative fusion of jazz and classical elements captured the spirit of the Roaring Twenties and helped establish Gershwin as one of the foremost composers of his time.