Rhapsody in Blue [F]

Released in September 1945 by Warner Bros.  Music by George Gershwin.  Lyrics by Ira Gershwin, Irving Caesar, B. G. De Sylva, DuBose Heyward, and Ballard MacDonald.  Screenplay by Howard Koch and Elliot Paul, from a story by Sonya Levien.  Directed by Irving Rapper.  Produced by Jesse L. Lasky.  Cast included Robert Alda, Joan Leslie, Alexis Smith, Charles Coburn, Al Jolson, Oscar Levant, and Paul Whiteman.

The dramatization of George Gershwin’s meteoric career and tragic death quickly became a prized Hollywood property and the Gershwin family was inundated with offers to produce a biopic.  The rights were purchased by Warner Bros. in 1941, but it took four years for this highly fictionalized movie to reach the screen.  Ira himself was a consultant to the many writers who worked on the screenplay, including playwright Clifford Odets, who turned out a lengthy, rejected version.  If RHAPSODY IN BLUE wasn’t entirely true to the events of George’s life, at least audiences were treated to extended versions of a number of his concert works and many of his most popular songs, some performed by the stars who made them famous (Al Jolson, Paul Whiteman).