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The Gene Krupa Story


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I was totally prepared to hate this one (another "What are they thinking on TCM" night, I anticipated), but ended up quite engrossed. There were, of all people, Susan Kohner from "Imitation of Life," Bobby Darrin from "Gidget," and -- WOW -- that Sal Mineo (didn't he die young and, if so, of what)??? Have only ever seen these three in their "defining" roles (Mineo in "Rebel"), so it was quite an eye-opener to see him acting quite manly in several scenes here. Interesting, too, that GK left the priesthood, yet looked almost spiritually transported when playing the drums. Great "fake" (the real Krupa actually played) by Mineo. Not bad!!!!!

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> that Sal Mineo (didn't he die young and, if so, of what)???


From IMDB.comExpanding his repertoire, Mineo returned to the theatre to direct and star in the play "Fortune and Men's Eyes" with successful runs in both New York and Los Angeles. In the late 1960s and 1970s he continued to work steadily in supporting roles on TV and in film, including Dr. Milo in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) and Harry O: Such Dust As Dreams Are Made On (1973). In 1975 he returned to the stage in the San Francisco hit production of "P.S. Your Cat Is Dead". Preparing to open the play in Los Angeles in 1976 with Keir Dullea, he returned home from rehearsal the evening of February 12th when he was attacked and stabbed to death by a stranger. A drifter named Lionel Ray Williams was arrested for the crime and, after trial in 1979, convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder. Although taken away far too soon, the memory of Sal Mineo continues to live on through the large body of TV and film work that he left behind. Robert Osborne did mention this after the film.


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I was surprised the movie overlooked his years in Hollywood. There were many movies where he played himself, or simply did a drum solo for a show or nightclub scene. I think Sal Mineo actually learned to play the drums in order to portray GK properly, and if you look at the facial expressions and body movements the real GK used while playing, you can see how accurate Sal was in his acting job.

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I saw The Gene Krupa Story when it came out in 1958 and didn't like it. But after watching it again on TCM last night, I did like it. Why? Because I thought that Sal Mineo, then a young actor, did a fine job portraying the best drummer of the Swing Era.


Gene Krupa was in a class by himself. He will always be one of my favorite jazz musicians. The movie shortchanged the high quality of Gene Krupa's own big band in the 1940s, still one of my favorites.


Gene's bust for marijuana now seems so amusing, considering the widespread use of marijuana by my generation in the 1960s and beyond. But it was no joke when Gene was busted. That marijuana was widely used by big band musicians in the late 1930s and 1940s was not widely known.


Listen to Gene Krupa's CDs sometime, or just go to my own web site, Tuxedo Junction, to do so: Here's the link to my Gene Krupa Jukebox Page:




Copy and paste this link into your browser's Address Bar.


I also enjoyed the three films that followed the Krupa story. The Jolson Story, St. Louis Blues, and Night and Day. Born in 1940, I was only six years olf when the The Jolson Story was released. But I remember seeing it with my parents. Larry Parks did a great job.


I don't remember seeing St. Louis Blues before. I enjoyed seeing both Nat King Cole and Eartha Kitt. I was a teenager when Eartha Kitt became popular. I thought then, and still do, that she was one of the sexiest female vocalists of that era. Now I'll have to buy some of her CDs to supplement the 45s I bought by her back in the 1950s, which I still have. And I remember how Nat King Cole recorded one major hit after another in the 1950s. He was one of the most talented singers and musicians of the 20th Century.


I've seen Night and Day on TCM several times and always enjoy it. It offers a highly romanticized but thoroughly enjoyable look at Cole Porter as portrayed by Cary Grant. Alexis Smith appears as beautiful as ever. And so does Porter's great music and lyrics.


Although I lived in Chicago most of my life, I have lived in Los Angeles since 1986. My home is only a mile from the former MGM studio in Culver City, now called Sony-TriStar-Columbia. I attend St. Augustine's Church across the street from the studio. I love walking by the studio on Sunday mornings. And when I return home, I love watching the movies that were made by MGM in my neighborhood so many years ago.


It is hard for me to believe that a half century has gone by since these movies were made. Thanks to Turner Classic Movies, we can see them again. That is really wonderful!

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> Gene's bust for marijuana now seems so amusing,

> considering the widespread use of marijuana by my

> generation in the 1960s and beyond. But it was no

> joke when Gene was busted. That marijuana was widely

> used by big band musicians in the late 1930s and

> 1940s was not widely known.


At the time, Krupa was busted more for contributing to the delinquency of a minor than for possession. I don't remember the full details of the story, but apparently, he handed off the reefers to a bell boy (or some other teen) to transport or dispose of for him. Those particular charges were eventually dropped, but only after Krupa had served most of the 90-day sentence for possession.


Also, the movie wildly exaggerates the response of the public and his fellow musicians. His own group did disband while he was incarcerated, but he received numerous offers from other band leaders to join them -- including an offer from his old boss Benny Goodman. Krupa was performing under his own name and alongside other major names within the matter of a few weeks. And the public still loved him -- probably loved him even more because of his "bad boy" persona (much like that of Robert Mitchum).


By the way, despite Krupa's undeniable influence on later drummers, I've always found him somewhat sloppy from a technical point of view. Sure, he was charismatic and full of energy, but other drummers like Buddy Rich, Art Blakey, and "Big" Sid Catlett were far more proficient, disciplined, and consistent technicians. (There are plenty of live recordings where you can hear Krupa drop his sticks -- a flub that I've never heard from Catlett.)

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