9/24/07

"PETE KELLY'S BLUES"--A JACK WEBB WORK

PeteKellyPoster

The more I think about it, the more I want to see "Pete Kelly's Blues" again. This may be Jack Webb's real masterwork--or at least his bid at being taken seriously as an auteur. Written by Richard L. Breen and produced and directed by Webb who also starred in it, the film is tough, funny and filled with good music. It doesn't appear to be on DVD--anyone know about it's availability?--nor does it turn up, at least not with any regularity, on the usual channels. Is there something about Jack Webb and his estate that's gumming up the works? I haven't seen "Dragnet" or "30" or "The D.I." turn up either.

peggyleealbum And I wonder what the critical reception for "PKB" was at the time--was it negative and did this put Webb off from trying ever more ambitious works? Certainly the snoot factor against television and its new stars was riding high in the mid-fifties and Webb was television glory incarnate. So perhaps his film was poo-poohed..but "Pete Kelly's Blues", for which Peggy Lee was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress, should have paved the way for more ambitious things.

It was also something of a cottage industry for Webb. Apparently it began as a radio show which aired as a summer replacement show in 1951, then became the movie, then later a television series and of course spawned two albums which Webb produced--the above soundtrack featuring Peggy Lee and another called "Pete Kelly Lets His Hair Down". This later appeared as part of a compilation which Webb--a jazz fanatic--released, called "Just The Tracks, Maam". Which is further proof of my theory that Webb was, above all, a comedian at heart, one who enjoyed twisting the world to his own darkly humourous viewpoint and seeing who, if anyone, was hip to his game.

The below is not from the movie itself but a promotional clip featuring the great Ella Fitzgerald singing the title song with the full-tilt Warner Brothers orchestra.