Jazz on Film


Columbia University

African-American Studies, Anthropology, and Film

Fall 2006

Course Requirements

1) Regular attendance and participation

2) Attendance at film showings

3) Read all assigned texts

4) 1-page paper on each week's film, due in class the week of the showing, beginning Sept 19

5) A short classroom presentation on one of the scheduled films or related material

6) Final paper of 15-20 pages (based on a topic that has been discussed with the instructor)

Required Reading

Krin Gabbard. Jammin' at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema


John Szwed. Jazz 101

Additional course readings in packet

Bibliographies and Filmographies

Library of Congress Guide to Jazz on Film Bibliography: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cocoon/ihas/html/jots/jazzscreen-home.html

The Internet Movie Base: http://www.imdb.com/search

Scott Yanow. Jazz on Film: The Complete Story of the Musicians & Music Onscreen (2004)

Klaus Stratemann. Louis Armstrong on the Screen. (1996)

Klaus Stratemann. Duke Ellington: Day by Day and Film by Film. (1992)

Other Reference Materials

David Butler. Jazz Noir: Listening to Music From Phantom Lady to The Last Seduction. (2002)

Krin Gabbard. Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture. (2004)

Daniel Goldmark. Tunes for ‘Toons': Music and the Hollywood Cartoon. (2005)

Franco La Polla, ed. All That Jazz: From New Orleans to Hollywood and Beyond. (2003)

Peter Stanfield. Body and Soul: Jazz and Blues in American Film 1927-63. (2005)


Week 1: Introduction: Concepts, Genres

Excerpts to be shown in class: samples of short films, soundies, artist films, cartoons, TV dramas. (including Oskar Fischinger and Max Fleischer films; Walt Disney's Music Land)

Week 2: Beginnings

Film: The Jazz Singer (1927)

Excerpts to be shown in class: The Jazz Singer (1952 & 1980 versions); The King of Jazz (1930); Hallelujah (1928)

Readings: Michael Rogin, "Blackface, White Noise" and "Racial Masquerade and Ethnic Assimilation" from Blackface, White Noise; Gabbard, Jammin' at the Margins, 1-33, 35-63; Robert Carringer, "Introduction: History of a Popular Culture Classic" from The Jazz Singer Film Guide

Week 3: Jazz Histories From Hollywood

Film: New Orleans (1947)

Excerpts to be shown in class: It's All True (1993 [1942]); Birth of the Blues (1941); Syncopation (1942); Pretty Baby (1977); A Song is Born (1948); Cotton Club (1984)

Readings: Gabbard, Jammin' at the Margins, 101-37, 204-238; Scott DeVeaux, "Introduction" from Birth of Bebop (1997); Sidney Bechet, "A Bend in the Road" and "Omar" from Treat It Gentle (1960)

Week 4: Biopics: Jazz Romance

Films: The Gene Krupa Story (1959); Young Man With a Horn (1950)

Excerpts to be shown in class: ‘Mo Better Blues (1990), Some Like It Hot (1959); A Man Called Adam (1966); Miles Davis performance clips

Reading: Gabbard, Jammin' at the Margins, 64-100; George F. Custen, "Reel Life," in Bio/Pics: How Hollywood Constructed Public History, 1992; Sharon Willis, "Introduction" from High Contrast, 1-19; David Ake, "Re-Gendering Jazz," in Jazz Cultures, 2002, 62-82; John Szwed, "The Man" in Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies, Robert G. O'Meally, Brent Edwards, and Farrah Griffin, eds.

Recommended reading: Krin Gabbard, Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture, 2004

Week 5: Biopics: Jazz Tragedy

Film: Bird (1988)

Excerpts to be shown in class: The Man With the Golden Arm (1955) Sweet Love, Bitter (1967); A Streetcar Named Desire (1951); jazz on sound tracks (example: Miles Davis)

Readings: Stanley Crouch, "Bird Land," The New Republic; Gabbard, Jammin'at the Margins, 64-100

Recommended reading: Gary Giddins, Celebrating Bird (1987); John A. Williams, Night Song (aka Sweet Love, Bitter); David Butler, Jazz Noir: Listening to Music From Phantom Lady to The Last Seduction, 2002

Week 6: The Musical

Film: Cabin in the Sky (1942)

Excerpts to be shown in class: Check & Double Check (1930) Meet Me in St. Louis (1944); Green Pastures (1936); Carmen Jones (1954); The Gospel at Colonus (1988); Creole Giselle (1987)

Readings: Gabbard, Jammin' at the Margins, 160-203; James Naremore, "Uptown Folk: Blackness and Entertainment in Cabin in the Sky," in Representing Jazz, Krin Gabbard, ed.; Rick Altman, "The American Film Musical as Dual-Focus Narrative" and "The Folk Musical" from The American Film Musical

Week 7: The Musical (cont'd)

Film: New York, New York (1977)

Excerpts to be shown in class: A Personal Journey Through American Movies With Martin Scorsese (1995) Absolute Beginners (1986)]; Short Cuts (1993)

Readings: Gabbard, Jammin' at the Margins, 266-295; Rick Altman, "Saving the Dying Myth: Reflexivity as Reinforcement," from The American Film Musical

Week 8: The Influence of Jazz on the Underground Film

Films: Pull My Daisy (1958); Shadows (1960)

Excerpts to be shown in class: Harry Smith, Early Abstractions (1946-57); Too Late Blues (1961); Ornette: Made in America (1986)

Readings: Jack Kerouac, "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose" (Black Mountain Review, Autumn, 1957); David Sterritt, "Splendid Entertainment for the Entire Family," Mad to be Saved (1998); "The First Statement of the New American Cinema Group"; Jonas Mekas, "Notes On the New American Cinema"; and Parker Tyler, "For Shadows and Pull My Daisy," all three from Film Culture Reader, P. Adams Sitney; "John Casasavetes, "Nostalgia in Times Square" (The Wire, 7, 1984) Recommended Reading: Ray Carney, Shadows (2001)

Week 9: Jazz as Emblem and Symptom: The Beats and Teenagers

Films: The Connection (1960); The Subterraneans (1960)

Excerpts to be shown in class: The Beat Generation (1960); The Wild One (1953); Beach Party (1963); Beat Girl (1962); Heart Beat (1980); Jack Kerouac interviewed by William Buckley

Readings: Bob Kaufman, "Bagel Shop Jazz" from Solitudes Crowded With Loneliness, 1965; David Sterritt, "Hollywood and It's Discontents" and "Inside the Beatcave"

Recommended Reading: Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans, 1958

Week 10: Loving the Alien: Blaxploitation Meets Science Fiction

Film: Space is the Place (1974)

Excerpts to be shown in class: Sun Ra Arkestra, The Cry of Jazz (1985), the Arkestra's home movies; Brother From Another Planet (1984); George Clinton's The Mothership Tour; Hawkwind, Love in Space; Chappaqua (1966); Zachariah (1971)

Reading: John F. Szwed, Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra, pp. xv-xviii, 228-239, 330-333, 382-388

Week 11: Jazz Films Overseas

Film: 'Round Midnight (1986)

Excerpts to be shown in class: Swing Kids (1993); Ces't la vie, mon cher (1993); Stormy Monday (1988); Jazzman (1984); Bix (1990)

Reading: Jean-Pierre Coursodon, "Round Midnight: An Interview With Bertrand Tavernier," Cinéaste, 15, 2 (1986: 19-22, 23)

Week 12: Documentaries

Films: Let's Get Lost (1988); Great Day in Harlem (1994)

Excerpts to be shown in class: Mingus (1968); Jazz On a Summer Day (1960); Jammin' the Blues (1944); Straight No Chaser (1988); Ken Burns' Jazz (2000); Under the Lizards (1993)

Reading: Hal Hinson, "Let's Get Lost: Baker as Icon," Washington Post, June 2, 1989

Week 13: Films Made on the Principles of Jazz

Film: Time Code (2000)

Excerpts: Happy Together (1997)

Resource Type: 
Jazz by Topic: 
Additional Keywords: 
African American studies, anthropology, bibliographies, filmographies, jazz films, jazz studies, syllabi