King of Jazz
John Murray Anderson, USA 1930, 100 minutes
“Shot in two-strip Technicolor by Broadway mainstay John Murray Anderson, King of Jazz remains a visual wonder, complete with extravagant dance routines, creative special effects, and even the first-ever Technicolor cartoon, directed by Walter Lantz, who would go on to create Woody Woodpecker.
As joyous a viewing experience as King of Jazz may be, new audiences should likely adjust their expectations. Most likely the music here will not fit your preconceived notion of what classifies as jazz. Whiteman’s Orchestra represents the most mainstream of mainstream jazz from the time, a kind of orchestral take on the Big Band model.
George Gershwin wrote Rhapsody in Blue for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, and the legendary tune is reprised here on a fantastic set piece, featuring a piano so big that it fits the full orchestra inside it and requires five different stand-ins for Gershwin to cover all the piano keys. It’s here that you can really start to see how King of Jazz is a snapshot of the time, capturing a theatrical collective that might have otherwise been lost to the ages.”
Criterion Confessions Mar 30 2018