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King of Jazz [Criterion Collection] [Blu-ray] [1930]

Release Date:03/27/2018
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Intended as Universal Pictures' entry in the "all-star musical" cycle of the early talkie era, King of Jazz is certainly the most elaborate of the bunch, though far from the most successful financially. Staged by Broadway impresario John Murray Anderson, the film is held together by the charismatic personality of rotund bandleader Paul Whiteman. The show begins with a Walter Lantz cartoon wherein it is recalled how Whiteman earned the title of the King of Jazz (Lantz's animated star Oswald Rabbit makes a brief appearance). Then Whiteman appears in the flesh (and plenty of it), coaxing his miniaturized orchestra out of a small box. The film then assumes the traditional revue format, with brief comedy sketches featuring such Universal contractees as Laura LaPlante and Slim Summerville interspersed with some of the most spectacular production numbers ever captured on film. The musical talent includes John Boles, the Rhythm Boys (with Bing Crosby), and "swing" violinist Joe Venuti. Highlights include a full-length "picturization" of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" (with Gershwin look-alike Roy Bargy at the piano), the surrealistic "Happy Feet", the splendiferous "Bridal Veil", and the gargantuan "Melting Pot" finale. The current Technicolor negative of King of Jazz, lovingly assembled from pristine original prints and battered dupes, runs 93 minutes -- some 12 minutes short of the film's original length.~Hal Erickson


All Americans, a 1929 short film featuring a version of the "Melting Pot" number that was restaged for King of Jazz

Deleted scenes and alternate opening title sequence

Four new video essays by authors and archivists James Layton and David Pierce on the development and making of King of Jazz

I Know Everybody ad Everybody's Racket, a 1933 short film featuring Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra

New 4k digital restoration by Universal Pictures, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack

New Audio Commentary featuring jazz and film critic Gary Giddins, music and cultural critic Gene Seymour, and musician and bandleader Vince Giordano

New interview with musician and pianist Michael Feinstein

New introduction to the film by Giddins

Plus: An essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme

Two Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Cartoons from 1930, featuring music and animation from King of Jazz