|My wife, Marie, and I are long-time fans of the Big Band swing music of the 1930’s and 1940’s, so names like Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Glenn Miller are quite familiar to us. I even have an uncle, Greg Spevak, who leads such an orchestra. My Aunt Pam is their vocalist.
We have The Glenn Miller Story on DVD and have watched it several times. This is a partly fictitious story about how Glenn Miller developed his orchestra, rose to fame, joined the military in WWII, and how that ended. Whether you like that music or Jimmy Stewart, this movie is worth watching, you’ll get the best of both.
When we found that The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra (web site) was to be performing at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greenville (less than an hour’s travel from here) we had to go see them. Ticket prices were quite reasonable. The NPAC is a lovely facility. Parking was good too. We scored a spot just a short walk to the facility main entrance. Actually, we got lucky on that.
The fella at the entrance directed me toward a set of pole lights quite some distance away, but as we headed over there another parking director stopped me and asked, “Do you think you can get in that spot?” and pointed to a smallish gap in the cars lining the edge of the driveway. We were in Marie’s Subaru Forester, which is short and nimble. I said, “Sure!” Marie gasped. But I pulled up even with the car ahead of the hole and proceeded to perform a near textbook perfect example of parallel parking . Marie said, “I am SO impressed!”. So was I actually: I hadn’t done that in a LONG time, the spot was only 3 feet longer than our car and there were expensive cars at each end of the hole. The red BMW behind us particularly worried me, but I never touched it!
As will happen, that performance fanned the flame of our love for that music, Glenn Miller’s music in particular and we went looking for other entertainment based on his life. YouTube offers up several.
The Real Glenn Miller Story is a BBC Radio drama that purports to tell about the “real” Glenn Miller (as opposed to the likable fellow portrayed by Jimmy Stewart in The Glenn Miller Story put out in 1954). As Anna Marie Rosenberg put it, “Somebody finally got it right. That magnificent stiff necked bully.” The performance is well done and worth listening to if you are able to enjoy a dramatization without the visuals of a movie.
Sun Valley Serenade is a 1941 movie: a completely fictitious tale about a band trying to get started but almost hits the rocks when their pianist falls for an immigrant girl, Karen, who steals his attentions.
Karen is played by Sonja Henie, a famous ice skater from Norway, a 3 time winner in the Winter Olympics, and also a 10 times World Champion in Ladies skating. Henie won more Olympic and World titles than any other ladies figure skater. At the height of her acting career she was one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood. She’s cute too!
The reason I include this movie here is that Glenn Miller and some of his orchestra members play the band in Sun Valley Serenade.
Another fictitious movie featuring Glenn Miller and his guys is the 1942 feature, Orchestra Wives. As you can imagine, this is a behind the scenes story about the life and loves of the band members. We haven’t watched it yet (maybe this weekend) but IMDB.com offers:
Connie Ward is in seventh heaven when Gene Morrison’s band rolls into town. She is swept off her feet by trumpeter Bill Abbot. After marrying him, she joins the bands tour and learns about life as an orchestra wife, weathering the catty attacks of the other band wives.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the career of band leader and trombonist Glenn Miller. If so, please leave a comment below. You don’t have to create an account, or anything like that, and you will not be added to any mailing list.
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