THE GLENN MILLER STORY. (1954) DIRECTED BY ANTHONY MANN. STARRING JAMES STEWART AND JUNE ALLYSON. MUSIC BY GLENN MILLER, JOSEPH GERSHENSON AND HENRY MANCINI. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
God, I love this film. I watch it every Christmas without fail, which is perfectly appropriate as it’s ideal family viewing and the action in the film ends on Christmas Day, 1944. It’s the story of the most famous ‘big band’ leader of them all, Glenn Miller, who between 1939 and 1943 scored no fewer than twenty-three Number Ones, a feat unequalled by Elvis Presley or even The Beatles.
And that was back when being Number One actually meant something. These days, Ed Sheeran could just break wind and it’d sail straight to the top of the charts without any competition whatsoever, no offence intended to the Rich Ginger One, lol.
Glenn Miller is magnificently portrayed here by America’s third favourite leading man after Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant, James Stewart. He looks so like Glenn Miller it’s actually uncanny, and his lanky, awkward charm is so devilishly endearing that it can’t fail to captivate the hearts of any women watching. Probably men too, I don’t know…!
The story takes us from Glenn Miller’s early attempts to establish himself as a musician and band leader to those heady, heady days when he was on top of the world, having finally established that distinctive ‘Glenn Miller Sound’ that we know so well and that he’d quite literally slaved to achieve.
Present for most of the struggle was Glenn’s lovely wife, Helen Miller née Burger. His courtship of her in the film is erratic and quirky and ultimately desperately romantic for the viewer. In real life, leaving two or three years between phone calls to his girlfriend would’ve garnered Miller the bum’s rush and a painful punch in the kisser, but the film has an almost fairytale quality to it and Glenn’s advances are welcomed by Helen with no harsher a remonstrance than the occasional humorously-toned ‘Honestly…!’ As in, Honestly, this man of mine, lol. He gets away with murder because of his eccentric and individualistic charm. Guys everywhere could learn a thing or two from him, they really could.
There are cameos in the film from such real-life musical luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Babe Russin, Gene Krupa, The Modernnaires and Frances Langford. I love when he’s leading his own big band overseas as Captain Glenn Miller in World War Two, and at an open-air concert for the troops the band keeps playing, even as the bombers are flying overhead and the earth is shaking ominously.
The band keeps playing on and receives a rapturous reception from the appreciative crowd after the danger has passed. I always get a big lump in my throat at that bit. Even mean old Hitler himself couldn’t stop Glenn Miller…!
I also love when his band start playing Glenn Miller’s own music to the troops on parade instead of the usual dreary marching music. Suddenly the troops are marching with these giant goofy grins plastered all over their mugs. It’s wonderful to see.
Of course, Captain Glenn Miller gets a big bollocking afterwards from his immediate superior for his maverick, Robin-Williams-in-GOOD-MORNING-VIETNAM-style behaviour, but he’s the winner ultimately when he’s given official permish to entertain the troops in his own inimitable Glenn Miller way.
We can’t talk about the film without talking about the marvellous music it contains. MOONLIGHT SERENADE is, of course, the big one, and the story of how it came about features prominently in the movie. You can also hear PENNSYLVANIA 6-5000, TUXEDO JUNCTION, AMERICAN PATROL, IN THE MOOD, A STRING OF PEARLS and LITTLE BROWN JUG, many of which were written as wonderful musical gifts to his wife. Lucky Helen…! Wish someone would write me a song of any description, lol.
The end comes when Glenn Miller’s plane goes missing somewhere over the English Channel on December 15th, 1944, while he’s en route to entertain American troops in France. Neither Glenn Miller nor his plane nor the pilot were ever seen again. It’s so sad to see this bit in the film.
It’s an unsolved mystery about which people have been speculating for years but the obvious answer to the puzzle of what happened is that the plane simply failed in some way and fell into the sea. It was a tragic end for the man who once denounced fascist oppression in Europe with the words: ‘America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music.’
Even sadder is the Christmas Day radio broadcast for that year, at which Glenn Miller was supposed to be present and playing. The broadcast poignantly goes ahead without him, while his wife Helen, his best friend and fellow musician Chummy MacGregor and Glenn and Helen’s two adopted children, Stevie and Jonnie, listen at home.
The Christmas tree twinkles while the adults listen to Glenn’s music, smiling through their tears. It’s just too sad. I always break down completely at this bit. It’s just like I always suspected, folks. I’m just too soft for this job, haha. Anyway, watch the film if you haven’t done so already. Glenn Miller isn’t just for Christmas, you know…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
You can contact Sandra at: