Rhapsody in Blue (2001)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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There's slightly more fancy than fact in this lavish film biography of legendary American composer George Gershwin, but oh! That music! Director Irving Rapper had wanted Tyrone Power to play Gershwin, but Power was still serving in the Marines, so Rapper had to settle for Robert Alda--who isn't bad at all, just a trifle over-enthusiastic. The film traces Gershwin's rise from a "song plugger" for a Manhattan music publishing company to the heights of international fame and fortune. Gershwin's first big hit is "Swanee," introduced on Broadway by Al Jolson (who plays himself, making his first film appearance in six years). In collaboration with his lyricist brother Ira (well played by Herbert Rudley), George pens hit after hit in show after show. Impresario Charles Coburn is happy with this, but George's kindly old music teacher Albert Basserman wants his prize pupil to aspire to something more artistic. Gershwin responds with "Rhapsody in Blue", which debuts at Aeolian Hall in 1924 under the baton of bandleader Paul Whiteman (also playing himself). As his fame and workload grows, George finds he has no time at all for romance; the two (fictional) ladies in his life, both of whom eventually realize that they'll always have to play second fiddle to Gershwin's muse, are musical comedy star Joan Leslie and socialite Alexis Smith. Gershwin continues to compose such masterpieces as "An American in Paris", "Cuban Overture", "Concerto in F" and the 1935 folk opera Porgy and Bess. He will not allow himself to rest on his laurels, ruthlessly pushing himself to top all his previous accomplishments. Finally, the strain proves too great: George Gershwin dies of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1937, at the age of 39. Featured in the cast as themselves (in addition to those already mentioned) are Gershwin's lifelong friend Oscar Levant, producer George White, and Broadway performers Tom Patricola and Hazel Scott. Morris Carnovsky and Rosemary DeCamp play George's parents, while Julie Bishop is cast as Ira's wife Lee, who is saddled with the film's silliest line: "Ira, promise me that you'll never become a genius." Alternately hokey and inspired, Rhapsody in Blue has weathered the years as one of Hollywood's most solid biopics. And, as a bonus, we are treated to a virtually complete performance (running a full reel) of the title composition.
Drama , Musical & Performing Arts
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Warner Home Video

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Robert Alda
as George Gershwin
Joan Leslie
as Julie Adams
Alexis Smith
as Christine Gilbert
Oscar Levant
as Himself
Charles Coburn
as May Dreyfus
Julie Bishop
as Lee Gershwin
Al Jolson
as Himself
Albert Basserman
as Prof. Frank
Morris Carnovsky
as Poppa Gershwin
Rosemary DeCamp
as Momma Gershwin
Herbert Rudley
as Ira Gershwin
John B. Hughes
as Commentator
Mickey Roth
as George Gershwin as a boy
Darryl Hickman
as Ira Gershwin as a Boy
Charles Halton
as Mr. Kast
Andrew Tombes
as Mr. Milton
Gregory Golubeff
as Mr. Katzman
Walter Soderling
as Mr. Muscatel
Eddie Marr
as Buddy De Sylva
Bill Kennedy
as Herbert Stone
Robert Shayne
as Christine's Escort
Johnny Downs
as Dancer
Ernest Golm
as Otto Kahn
Martin Noble
as Jascha Heifetz
Hugo Kirchhoffer
as Walter Damrosch
Will Wright
as Rachmaninoff
Ivan Lebedeff
as Guest in Nightclub
Virginia Sale
as Cashier
Yola d'Avril
as Prima Donna
Claire Du Brey
as Receptionist
Christian Rub
as Swedish Janitor
Odette Myrtil
as Mme. De Breteuil
Rob Johnson
as Sport
Jay Novello
as Orchestra Leader
Mark Stevens
as Singer
George White
as Himself
Hazel Scott
as Herself
Tom Patricola
as Himself
Ira Gershwin
as Herbert Rudley
Harry Seymour
as Piano Player
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Critic Reviews for Rhapsody in Blue

All Critics (5)

The music is glorious, but the biopic is pedestrian and fictionlaized to a fault, and Robert Alda as the genius George Gerhsiwn is too bland

Full Review… | July 28, 2011

It's the usual inaccurate Hollywood biopic.

Full Review… | February 5, 2009
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Typical Hollywoodized biopic with some amazing moments.

October 8, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Quote not available.

August 22, 2003
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Quote not available.

May 29, 2003
Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)

Audience Reviews for Rhapsody in Blue


Warner Bros. prestigious "biography" of composer George Gershwin only rings true during the musical numbers, of which there are many: highlights include Al Jolson singing "Swanee," and Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra recreating their 1924 performance of "Rhapsody in Blue."

Michael Troudt
Michael Troudt

Worthless as biography but what great music and Alexis Smith is always worth watching.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

Cinematic biography of legendary composer George Gershwin. Beginning with Gershwin's boyhood in Manhattan's Lower East Side, the film follows the path of his career as he produces one musical classic after another. Also dramatized are Gershwin's relationship with his famed lyricist brother, Ira, and the effect of Gershwin's innermost demons on his both life and work. The film's soundtrack includes: "Rhapsody in Blue", "Concerto in F", "Someone to Watch Over Me", "S'Wonderful", "My One and Only", and "Embraceable You"

Sean Nelson
Sean Nelson

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