Paul Whiteman And His Band In “King Of Jazz” (1930)

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King of Jazz is a 1930 American Pre-Code color film starring Paul Whiteman and his orchestra. The film title was taken from Whiteman’s self-conferred appellation. At the time the film was made, “jazz”, to the general public, meant the jazz-influenced syncopated dance music which was being heard everywhere on phonograph records and through radio broadcasts. In the 1920s Whiteman signed and featured white jazz musicians including Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang (both are seen and heard in the film), Bix Beiderbecke (who had left before filming began), Frank Trumbauer and others. There is a possibility that one of the people appearing in the film was the great-uncle of Kurt Cobain (the late vocalist and guitarist of Nirvana).

King of Jazz was filmed entirely in the early two-color Technicolor process and was produced by Carl Laemmle Jr. for Universal Pictures. The movie featured several songs sung on camera by the Rhythm Boys (Bing Crosby, Al Rinker and Harry Barris), as well as off-camera solo vocals by Crosby during the opening credits and, very briefly, during a cartoon sequence. King of Jazz still survives in a near-complete color print and is not a lost film, unlike many contemporary musicals that now exist only either in incomplete form or as black-and-white reduction copies.

In 2013, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


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