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Actors who could really play their instruments.


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Just watched Daddy Long Legs. Fred Astaire sure could stroke those skins. Not Buddy Rich or Kieth Moon, but he had chops. Does stuff with drums in other movies, too. Easter Parade is the best. Damsel in Distress to, yes? But he was better on the piano. We get all to little of it, too. Only enough to tantalize, in Follow the Fleet and Broadway Melody of 1940. I would have liked to see him play with Nat King Cole. Others play, too. I'm not talking about musicians *** actors, like Oscar Levant, or actors *** musicians like Harpo or Chico. Just actors, who can play. For me there's nothing more distracting than watching an actor who doesn't know how to play, and they know it, and the audence knows it, and it looks so fakey. Mostly it's the piano. Ann Dvorak does a decent job pounding the ivories in The Strange Love of Molly Louvain. And of course, Jean Arthur in Only Angels have wings. My, that's a magical scene. And talk about composition. Look at this frame--you won't find anything better by Franz Hals, or even Rembrandt:

 

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Fred MacMurray was a vocalist on Broadway and played several instruments. He was skilled at violin, piano, guitar and saxophone. According to the IMDB, he is a musical performer on the soundtrack of 13 films he made. He played the sax on occasional episodes of My Three Sons.

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In 'Blondie Goes Latin' (1941), Dagwood Bumstead, played by Arthur Lake, plays the drums quite well . . .

 

 

I had seen this movie so many times before and never realized that the 'bumbling' Dagwood could

 

 

actually play the drums.

 

 

 

 

 

... and then again @ the start of this clip . . .

 

 

... and Blondie, played by Penny Singleton, does a Great 'Rumba' number beginning @ 4:55.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

moviesblondie0804.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I understand MICKEY ROONEY was quite accomplished on the drums, which he was shown playing in a couple of movies. I also understand there were actors who played the instruments their characters were supposed to, but not as WELL as their characters were supposed to, but well enough to make it LOOK good.

 

 

RONNIE COX was likely doing his own guitar playing in *Deliverance* , as he has some mighty fine chops on that instrument.

 

 

As well as the cast of *This Is Spinal Tap.*

 

 

Who bugs ME is ELVIS PRESLEY. He really knew how to play guitar, but didn't seem to put in the effort in most of his movies to make it LOOK real.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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Both Mary Astor (*The Great Lie*) and Miriam Hopkins (*The Smiling Lieutenant*) were trained pianists. Betty Compson (*Street Girl* and *God's Country and the Main*) was a trained violinist.

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote: ...}{quote}I'm not talking about musicians-actors, like Oscar Levant, or actors-musicians like Harpo or Chico. Just actors, who can play. ...

I guess Harpo and Chico are excluded from the discussion because their harp- and piano-playing were part of their usual act. But what about Groucho? He didn't usually play an instrument in his movie appearances, but in HORSE FEATHERS, he demonstrated that he was quite a competent guitarist. In the scene where he's serenading a young woman with "Everyone Says I Love You" as they float in a canoe, it's very clear that he's actually playing the fairly nice arch-top guitar as accompaniment. When it comes time for the guitar to be thrown in the water, there's a cut and you can tell, by looking closely, that a different, presumably cheaper guitar has been substituted.

 

(Groucho's part starts at about 3:03 --

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I believe Jack Lemmon was quite a good pianist, although the only time I remember him playing in a movie was in THE PLAYER, where he played himself playing the piano at a Hollywood party, if I remember correctly. I recall reading that he made some money playing the piano in the years before his acting career took off. In IT HAPPENED TO JANE, Jack accompanies Doris Day on the ukelele, and based on the small flub at the end of the song, which synchs with his playing, I think he's actually playing the instrument live in the scene. In addition, Wikipedia notes that he also played harmonica, organ, and string bass.

 

I believe Mickey Rooney, who's already been mentioned as a drummer, played the piano, too. Either STRIKE UP THE BAND or GIRL CRAZY provides the evidence (sorry -- it's been a while since I've seen either, but I think it was SUTB). There's a scene where he's playing piano with either the Paul Whiteman Orchestra (SUTB) or Tommy Dorsey (GC), and it sure looks like he's really playing. In WHEN THE LION ROARED, Freddie Bartholomew said that Mickey could "play any instrument" -- perhaps a slight overstatement, but an indication that Rooney was known as an instrumentalist.

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> {quote:title=drednm wrote:}{quote}Both Mary Astor (*The Great Lie*) and Miriam Hopkins (*The Smiling Lieutenant*) were trained pianists. Betty Compson (*Street Girl* and *God's Country and the Main*) was a trained violinist.

I believe Russ Columbo dubbed Betty Compson's violin playing in STREET GIRL.

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I suppose to the uninitiated the pool cue wouldn't be considered a musical instrument, but unlike Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, Jackie Gleason definitely knew how to use one. One of my all-time fantasies would have been to see a movie centered on the Norfolk pool hustling scene of World War 2, with Gleason cast as New York Fats (which was Minnesota Fats' real moniker) and Fred Astaire (who was even better than Gleason) playing Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter, the greatest nine ball hustler of his era. You could have had Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly playing two of the thousands of sailors on leave who blew all their paychecks to Astaire and Gleason, and for once you'd have had a Hollywood war movie that was actually 100% realistic.

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All of the Marx brothers were musically inclined...according to what I've read, music was always part of their lives when they were growing up. Heard something (possibly on TCM?) that when the music started in one of their films, "the music was treated with respect". Harpo and Chico's musical scenes in their films are some of my favorite parts of their movies, especially Harpo...watch his face closely when he plays his harp. You can literally see the serious intent written across his face, and his love of not only the instrument but the music as well.

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> {quote:title=johnpressman wrote:}{quote}Watch "The Buddy Holly Story" Gary Busey, who played guitar as Teddy Jack Eddy, is singing and playing LIVE in every musical scene, amazing!

Not really involving a musical instrument, but two rather amazing singing performances are Sissy Spacek in her Oscar-winning role in *Coal Miner's Daughter* (1980....and yes, she did her own singing!), and Johnny Depp in *Sweeney Todd* (2007...he had NEVER sang before and truly surprised everyone with his Oscar-nominated performance). Another one which really surprised me with her singing was Meryl Streep in *Mamma Mia!* (2008...she was nominated for *Doubt* that same year, but I think she should have been nominated for Mamma Mia!).

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I don't think *Mama Mia* should have even been released! ACKK!

 

 

But where've you been? Streep proved her vocal chops years ago in *Postcards From The Edge.*

 

 

Depp WAS in a few garage-level bands before hitting it big in movies, but yeah, I don't think he SANG in a movie before TODD. And it seems to me that Spacek learned to play guitar, at least rudimentally, to play her part in *Coalminer's Daughter.*

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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1. I like *Mamma Mia* .Really fun movie.

 

2. Never saw *Postcards* , but am aware she sang in that. My point was that MM was a full-blown musical...a first for her.

 

3. "but yeah, I don't think he SANG in a movie before TODD" - Uh, yeah, that's what I meant and what I said. Wasn't aware of him in any garage bands...but that wasn't my point. He's never done any REAL professional singing, particularly on-screen.

 

4. Yes, Sissy could play the guitar prior to the movie....she'd recorded a couple of albums earlier in the 70's.

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"I think of Robert Duvall in "Tender Mercies".. he picks at the Acoustic Guitar in the Kitchen Scene which is not a guitar track. I think though when he is with the young band on stage, its not him really playing but I could be wrong. Sissy and Coal Miners Daughter already mentioned is the ultimate Biographical Performance of a Lifetime! Hey how about a comedy, The Blues Brothers, Elroy Blues (Dan Ackroid) played the Blues Harp didn't he? Buddy Holly.. Gary Busey may have been playing guitar!

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Yes, Groucho could play the guitar. Funny you mention that canoe scene. I remember seeing this and saying to myself 'hey what a nice arch-top,,, looks like a Gibson'. I have a few of these and they are great guitars for jazz playing. Well I also remember being somewhat upset that they would destroy the guitar. So I hope they didn't!

 

 

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And don't forget, *Dick Powell* is really playing the piano in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933

gold[idiggers[/i]powell.jpg]

 

And *Dub Taylor* was actually hired for YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU because he could play the xylophone (plus he rocks)

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Plus, apparently *James Stewart* could play the accordion and is actually playing it in DEAR BRIGITTE

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Edited by: LonesomePolecat on Jun 29, 2012 4:25 PM

 

Edited by: LonesomePolecat on Jun 29, 2012 4:33 PM

 

Edited by: LonesomePolecat on Jun 29, 2012 4:34 PM

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