Birth of the Blues (1941) - Rotten Tomatoes

Birth of the Blues (1941)

Birth of the Blues





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Rather shaky as history, Birth of the Blues delivers the goods in terms of entertainment, thanks to the unbeatable star combination of Bing Crosby and Mary Martin. Set in New Orleans in the 'teens, the film stars Crosby as clarinetist Jeff Lambert, who breaks away from a traditionalist orchestra to form his own jazz band. His partners in this endeavor are songstress Betty Lou Cobb (Martin) and trumpeter Memphis (Brian Donlevy), a character obviously meant to be a white-bread version of Louis Armstrong. Inspired by the rhythms heard amongst the African American population of Louisiana, Jeff, Betty Lou and Memphis rise to fame and fortune, but internal jealousies and external gangster threats seriously compromise their success. An added complication is the presence of cute little orphan girl Phoebe (Carolyn Lee), Betty Lou's aunt, whom Jeff is obliged to hide from the child-welfare behemoths. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson is in his element as Jeff's long-suffering general factotum Louey, whose near-death experience towards the end of the story results in one of film's most powerful musical vignettes. The 14 songs heard in Birth of the Blues range from such classics as "St. Louis Blues" and "St. James Infirmary" to such newly-minted ditties as Johnny Mercer's "The Waiter, the Porter and the Upstairs Maid".more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Musical & Performing Arts, Classics, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Harry Tugend, Walter de Leon
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 15, 2003
Paramount Pictures


Bing Crosby
as Jeff Lambert
Mary Martin
as Betty Lou Cobb
as Louey
Carolyn Lee
as Aunt Phoebe Cobb
Cecil Kellaway
as Mr. Granet
Harry Rosenthal
as Piano player
Donald Kerr
as Skeeter
Victor Potel
as Trumpet player
Minor Watson
as Henri Lambert
Ronnie Cosbey
as Jeff (as a boy)
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Birth of the Blues

Critic Reviews for Birth of the Blues

All Critics (6) | Top Critics (2)

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Dated, full of politically incorrect racial edges, but fun musically with Crosby starring.

November 3, 2008

A remarkable Bing Crosby vehicle that pays heartfelt homage to the creators and innovators of jazz... It seems almost like the first rock 'n roll movie...

August 11, 2003
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

October 17, 2003
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Full Review… | May 24, 2003

Audience Reviews for Birth of the Blues

Inane story but great music and one of the few chances to see Mary Martin in a lead film role.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer


Being a jazz and blues fan, I found the music to be great. Movie is not a history of the blues but a simple story with a simple yet nice tribute at the end. Based on movies made during this time period.


pretty enjoyable film and an unfortunately forgotten treasure in the Bing Crosby library. well-written in typical 30s and 40s musical comedy style. entertaining characters, fun story, and some great early jazz/blues music.

Birth of the Blues Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

Discussion Forum

Discuss Birth of the Blues on our Movie forum!