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St. Louis Blues

Bessie Smith

 

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The Complete 1929 Film

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In the 1929 film "St. Louis Blues" starring Bessie Smith, that sensationnel "Empress of the Blues" herself sings the title song with a backing chorus provided by the "Hall Johnson Choir", complete with dancing waiters, and a jazz band featuring Thomas Morris and Joe Smith cornets, and James P. Johnson piano.

Directed by Dudley Murphy this would be the great Bessie Smith's only motion picture appearance. Bessie's was the most popular version of the W.C. Handy classic ever committed to record or film. Her no-good man is played by Jimmy Mordecai, and Alec Lovejoy has a bit role as the janitor, as does Isabel Washington (aka that pretty 'Yellow Woman').

The film begins with an argument between Bessie and her boyfriend Jimmy when she catches him cheating on her in her own bed with a another woman. After beating the girl in a fight and sending her running Bessie is knocked to the floor by Jimmy who proceeds to pack up and leave. This terribly unfortunate chain of events prompts poor Bessie to start drinking in her room alone thus inspiring her to sing the title song. The scene changes to that of a Harlem bar room where Bessie has continued her drinking binge and Jimmy resurfaces with false intentions to reconcile but only so he can take the rest of Bessie's money and laugh in her face.



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