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USA 1950
Directed by
Michael Curtiz
112 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Young Man With A Horn

Michael Curtiz’s unfortunately-titled just-above-B-grade melodrama, Young Man with a Horn, mines every jazz-musician cliché in the repertoire and then some.

Orphaned kid Rick Martin does it tough but saves up his nickels to buy a trumpet.  He is taken under the wing of kindly black trumpeter Art Hazzard (Juano Hernandez), becomes a hot  player (at which point Kirk Douglas steps  into the role), goes through various vicissitudes for his music, loses his way and marries a socialite (Lauren Bacall), abandons his instrument in a fog of alcohol-fueled self-pity and eventually is redeemed by a gal who really loves him (Doris Day). 

If the story is routine, Lauren Bacall, who is supposed to be studying to be a psychologist is, decked out in her Park Avenue finery like no student you’ve ever seen (she has also started and abandoned innumerable improbable careers on Daddy’s money).  For the rest, Curtiz dabbles with bohemianism and "adult" behaviours but then retreats into Production Code orthodoxy in a film that rarely goes beyond its studio confines (there are some nice exteriors of New York’s empty morning streets late in the film).

Douglas give a usual enough energetic performance and is convincing on the horn but the film will principally appeal to Doris Day fans as there is plenty of her warbling and swing aficionados who will get a kick from Harry James’s trumpet-subbing whilst keeping up the musical component, the ever-genial Hoagy Carmichael plays the pianist-narrator, Willie 'Smoke' Willoughby.

FYI: For thematically-related subject matter see Pete Kelly's Blues (1955).




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