The Fabulous Dorseys (1947) Poster

The Fabulous Dorseys (1947)

  • Rate: 5.4/10 total 258 votes 
  • Genre: Biography | Music | Romance
  • Release Date: 21 February 1947 (USA)
  • Runtime: 88 min
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The Fabulous Dorseys (1947)


The Fabulous Dorseys 1947tt0039365.jpg poster

  • IMDb page: The Fabulous Dorseys (1947)
  • Rate: 5.4/10 total 258 votes 
  • Genre: Biography | Music | Romance
  • Release Date: 21 February 1947 (USA)
  • Runtime: 88 min
  • Director: Alfred E. Green
  • Stars: Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey and Janet Blair|See full cast and crew
  • Original Music By: Louis Forbes (uncredited) Leo Shuken (uncredited)  
  • Soundtrack: Waitin' at the Gate for Katy
  • Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording)
  • Plot Keyword: Brother | Character Name In Title

Writing Credits By:

  • Richard English (story and screenplay) and
  • Art Arthur (story and screenplay) and
  • Curtis Kenyon (story and screenplay)

Known Trivia

    Goofs: Miscellaneous: The opening title shows The Fabulous Dorseys' with an apostrophe after the final "s". That apostrophe is extraneous, as it connotes the possessive.

    Plot: The rise and rise of the Fabulous Dorsey brothers is charted in this whimsical step down memory lane… See more » |  »

    Story: The rise and rise of the Fabulous Dorsey brothers is charted in this whimsical step down memory lane, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey play themselves in this vehicle for their excellent music. From being raised by their father who insists on them learning music, to the split that just saw their careers rise even further.Written by Paul Batey <>  

    FullCast & Crew

    Produced By:

    • Charles R. Rogers known as producer
    • John W. Rogers known as associate producer (as John Rogers)

    FullCast & Crew:

    • Tommy Dorsey known as Himself
    • Jimmy Dorsey known as Himself
    • Janet Blair known as Jane Howard
    • Paul Whiteman known as Himself – Bandleader
    • William Lundigan known as Bob Burton
    • Sara Allgood known as Mrs. Dorsey
    • Arthur Shields known as Mr. Dorsey
    • Dave Willock known as Foggy
    • William Bakewell known as Eddie
    • James Flavin known as Gorman
    • Charlie Barnet known as Himself – Bandleader
    • Bob Eberly known as Himself – Band Vocalist
    • Henry Busse known as Himself
    • Helen O'Connell known as Herself – Band Vocalist
    • Mike Pingatore known as Himself
    • Art Tatum known as Himself
    • Ziggy Elman known as Himself – Musician
    • Stuart Foster known as Himself
    • Ray Bauduc known as Himself
    • Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra known as Themselves (as Tommy Dorsey Orchestra)
    • Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra known as Themselves (as Jimmy Dorsey's Band)
    • Buz Buckley known as Young Jimmy (uncredited)
    • Ann Carter known as Young Jane (uncredited)
    • Edward Clark known as Hotel Clerk (uncredited)
    • Hal K. Dawson known as Artie (uncredited)
    • Tom Dugan known as Waiter (uncredited)
    • Bess Flowers known as Lady in Concert Audience (uncredited)
    • Malcolm 'Bud' McTaggart known as Phil (uncredited)
    • Buddy Morrow known as Himself – Trombonist (uncredited)
    • Anne O'Neal known as Kate (uncredited)
    • Jack Roper known as Radio Station Attendant (uncredited)
    • Jackie Searl known as Joe (uncredited)
    • Sherry Sherwood known as Herself (uncredited)
    • Andrew Tombes known as De Witt (uncredited)
    • Bobby Warde known as Young Tommy (uncredited)



    Supporting Department

    Makeup Department:

    • Francis J. Stinton known as makeup artist




    Production Companies:

    • Charles R. Rogers Productions
    • Embassy Productions


    • United Artists (1947) (USA) (theatrical)
    • Hal Roach Studios (1985) (USA) (VHS)
    • Lions Gate Films Home Entertainment (1988) (USA) (VHS)
    • Madacy Entertainment (1995) (USA) (VHS)
    • Hollywood Classics (1996) (USA) (VHS)
    • Madacy Entertainment (1998) (USA) (VHS)
    • Umbrella Entertainment (2005) (Australia) (DVD)
    • Reel Media International (2004) (worldwide) (VHS)
    • Passport Video (2007) (USA) (DVD)
    • Reel Media International (2007) (worldwide) (all media)
    • Bach Films (2009) (France) (DVD)
    • Critics' Choice Video (????) (USA) (DVD)
    • Mill Creek Entertainment (????) (USA) (DVD)



    Other Stuff

    Visual Effects by:

    • Alfred Schmid known as photographic effects

    Release Date:

    • USA 21 February 1947
    • Sweden 8 September 1947
    • Portugal 8 December 1952
    • Switzerland 9 August 2003 (Locarno Film Festival)



    Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database

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    Posted on November 12, 2012 by Movies DVD New Releases Blu-ray in Movies | Tags: , , , .


    1. grafspee from Australia
      12 Nov 2012, 12:15 am

      Tommy and Jimmy were never actors, nor close brotherly musicians forthat matter. Fightin' and Feudin' were their credentials in real life,breaking up their joint band in 1935 over an argument on stage aboutthe tempo of a tune, "I'll Never Say Never Again". Hot of trombone, hotof temper the domineering,take charge Tommy walked off and formed hisown Band. Jimmy, the older of the two, who adopted the role in theirjoint band as the lay back clarinet and alto saxophonist was left withthe original orchestra.

      Both brothers vowed never to play with one another again and the riftlasted twelve years, till the death of their father, where they made itup in consolation to their grieving mother.

      This movie is a relatively good portrayal of their respective lives,featuring their doting parents, who tried to reconcile theirindifference's but to no avail.

      The real substance of this movie however, is the superb music not onlyof the Dorsey Brothers, whose individual careers flourished anywayregardless of the breakup, but the contribution of many other originalperformers such as Bandleader Paul Whiteman, and solo instrumentalperformances by Charlie Barnet, Art Tatum, Henry Busse, Ziggy Elman andRay Bauduc. Great vocals by Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell singing"Green Eyes" who were actual performers in Jimmy's band but the realstunner is a very lovely, talented Janet Blair with a heavenly voice,effortless phrasing and natural style giving superb renditions inTommy's band of "Marie",and "The Object of My Affection",and separatelywith a trio featuring William Lundigan as the pianist, plus Bass andGuitar of an unforgettable number, "To Me", in which she shinesmagnificently.

      Tommy died on November 26 1956 followed by Jimmy 7 months later.

      Despite everything about their eruptive and stormy past they both lefta legacy of great music which is still played by swing band enthusiastslike myself to this day.

      Relax, watch the movie, and enjoy the music.

    2. John Langbein (medrjel) from Dixie, USA
      12 Nov 2012, 12:15 am

      Note: contains real life facts that can be construed as ***SPOILERS*** forthose unfamiliar with this era.

      If you love the swing era music, you will enjoy this movie. It’s full of it.If you want to know what went on in the lives of the musicians, this moviehas it. In fact, the musicians are the actors as well!

      That’s the major fault in this movie. Tommy and Jimmy are great performers,but are not actors. Though, some of the bitterness is very real. Tommy"Lightning Slide" Dorsey and Jimmy "Slow Burn" Dorsey did have a parting ofthe ways. This movie, really in tribute to their father, was filmed shortlyafter they reunited from their musical split. Still, even after that timethey continued solo careers (Tommy faring a bit better than his brotherJimmy in that respect).

      At the same time, the fact that the people are real is this movie’s greateststrength. They can be a bit stiff with the acting part, but you know whatthey say is true to their hearts… Heck it was their lives.

    3. Elgroovio from Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
      12 Nov 2012, 12:15 am

      The Dorsey Brothers were great musicians, and I admire their workgreatly, but they weren’t actors. They could carry off reasonableperformances in cameo roles in films, like Tommy Dorsey did in the film"a star is born" but other than that, they were not worthy of a mainrole.

      However, I am not here to dump this film; it has some fantastic musicin it, including a great jam session with Art Tatum. We are treated toa fabulous amount of Dorsey hits like Tommy Dorsey’s soulful renditionof "I’m Getting Sentimental over you" and Jimmy Dorsey’s swingeyrendition of "Tangerine".

      Also, there are some enjoyable cameo appearances (apart from Tatum)that include the famous bandleader Paul Whiteman and the singer BobEberle.

      The worst thing about this film is a romantic relationship that occursbetween the DB band’s pianist and the singer. This relationship hasvirtually nothing to do with the film, and amounts to an unbearableschmaltz.

      "The fabulous Dorseys" isn’t a bad film but you probably have to be amassive fan of the talented brothers to truly like this film. Enjoy themusic! 7/10

    4. BruceUllm from Orange County, CA
      12 Nov 2012, 12:15 am

      The condition of the print that was transferred to DVD was just awful.This was no bootleg, either. It's the commercially available disc. Thatis a pity. Worse is the ham-handed acting and Irish accents thinkenough to cut with a dull knife. Even Barry Fitzgerald never laid it onthat thick.

      However… for me, it as all worth it to see Helen O'Connell sing"Green Eyes." Oh yes! So, I hold with many of the others' views: watchthis for the music and skip the rest.

      It would be a help if the print could be restored to a decent conditionand a disc transfer made from that. However, the overall quality of themovie and, sadly, the lack of general interest in good music of theSwing Era, probably doesn't justify the expense.

    5. jarod34 ( from Nottingham, England
      12 Nov 2012, 12:15 am

      I watched this film this afternoon and I am amazed that Janet Blair didn’tbecome one of the great sex symbols of the era. It was only for thisbeautiful, sexy woman that made me stay with it, (plus the fabulousmusic).The script was dreadful, the acting (apart from Ms Blair), was embarrasingand the storyline was desperately dull. So in summary if an actress canmakeme stick like glue to a bomb of a movie like that, she must be somethingspecial. Surely we can at least have a headshot!

    6. carlock from United States
      12 Nov 2012, 12:15 am

      I have to agree that the movie is not the best I've ever seen, but Iwould like to make mention that the actors portraying Tommy and JimmyDorsey were the actual Dorsey brothers. As actors, they were wonderfulmusicians. The movie, based on their famous split, would have beenbetter had professional actors played the parts. Many movies madeduring this time frame took advantage of the popularity of Big Bands.Most often, the movies were not that good because musicians are notactors by trade. Most of the movie-going audience didn't go to seeTommy or Jimmy Dorsey playing themselves; they went for the plot andthe music. I've never been much of a Dorsey fan, but the music is goodeven today.

      I have to comment on a previous post regarding the actors who playedMom and Pop Dorsey and that their accents would be considered extremeby a Dublin audience. Arthur Shields and Sara Allgood were actuallyIrish actors, both born in Dublin. You might remember Mr. Shields asthe Reverend Mr. Playfair in The Quiet Man and Ms. Allgood as Mrs.Monahan in Cheaper By The Dozen.

    7. bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
      12 Nov 2012, 12:15 am

      The miracle in getting this film together was to get the DorseyBrothers on the same sound-stage for this independent productionreleased by United Artists. The feuding brothers who led two of thebest and best known bands of the swing era was a story well known tothe American movie going public.

      Because of that and because their names and faces were so well known tothe American public that certain parameters were put on the producersright from the start. That is the reason the brothers played themselvesI'm thinking, despite the fact that as actors they were greatmusicians. It reminds me of The Jackie Robinson Story which was done afew years later where Robinson played himself and great athlete that hewas, he just wasn't an actor.

      Carrying the acting part of the film were Janet Blair and WilliamLundigan playing a singer and piano player whose lives were intertwinedwith the Dorseys. The only part of the film that was true was thebreakup. The two brothers feuded constantly and were most competitiveeven as kids. As it is shown here, is exactly how the breakup occurred.

      Also in the film were Mom and Pop Dorsey played by Sara Allgood andArthur Shields. It is also true that they did grow up in thePennsylvania coal mining country and that their father made them takemusic lessons as a way of escaping that life.

      After leaving Paul Whiteman whose orchestra was the nurturing groundfor an incredible amount of the musical talent in this country for acouple of generations, the Dorseys did strike out on their own with ajoint band. And the split occurred exactly as it is shown on screen,they couldn't do it any other way, the story was part of swing lore.But as individual band leaders Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey scored theirgreatest success in the swing era. From 1935 when the split occurreduntil the end of World War II which was the end of the Big Band era,both orchestras were consistently in the top five of bands in any pollthat was taken.

      Jimmy was the quieter, more restrained and nicer of the brothers.Tommy's temper was legendary, but he had some of the best musiciansaround in his band and he ran it with an iron fist. One of the bigparts of Tommy's story was his singer from 1940 to 1942 who when hewent out on his own became probably the most famous graduate of eitherband. The parting with Tommy Dorsey was not a pleasant one for FrankSinatra, although later on Sinatra gave Dorsey a lot of credit for thecareer he had. In fact he said that the way Tommy Dorsey played thetrombone was whom he patterned his singing style after.

      Jimmy had a couple of pretty good singers with his band as well withHelen O'Connell and Bob Eberly, both who had substantial careers,although not in the Sinatra league. Some five years after this film wasmade, the brothers did reunite.

      Tommy died in 1956, a freak accidental death in his sleep as heregurgitated part of a heavy meal he just had and choked on it becauseof the pills he had taken. Sadly Jimmy Dorsey at the time of hisbrother's death knew he had a terminal throat cancer and he died in1957. Their combined music will live on forever, providing enjoyment tomillions.

      And the music is the reason to watch The Fabulous Dorseys. This reviewis dedicated to those battling brothers who made so much good musictogether and so much better apart.

    8. Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
      12 Nov 2012, 12:15 am

      THE FABULOUS DORSEYS is, as Maltin says, "a limp musical", largelybecause neither JIMMY or TOMMY DORSEY can act their way out of a paperbag and the screenplay is hardly an inspired piece of writing. The mostingratiating performers are JANET BLAIR and WILLIAM LUNDIGAN, supplyingthe love interest as members of the band, and at least add somenecessary glamor to the proceedings.

      SARAH ALLGOOD and ARTHUR SHIELDS are the Irish parents of the boys, whohad a fighting relationship since childhood. The film depicts how thistemperamental nonsense continued into their adult life as band leaderswho argued about everything, especially music. Only after their fatherdies and Blair schemes a way to get the band leaders together again fora concert, does the story reach a reasonably happy ending.

      We get snatches of some of their song hits, including the memorable"Green Eyes" and "Marie", and Bob Eberle and Helen O'Connell get to dotheir thing with a song, but the swing music isn't enough to compensatefor a thin, contrived plot line. Furthermore, the print shown on TCMwas pretty rough around the edges, no better than a third rate PublicDomain print.

      Summing up: The Dorseys deserved better than this.

    9. Terrell-4 from San Antonio, Texas
      12 Nov 2012, 12:15 am

      Why spend a moment slogging through this awkward and self-consciousmovie? Every now and then, after an hour of tedious plot and amateuracting, we start getting bits and pieces of the big band swing thatmade Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, separately and together, the greatmusicians they were. Occasionally — in a jam session with Art Tatum,with Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra doing "Marie" and, a standout,Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra fronting Bob Eberle and Helen O'Connellsinging "Green Eyes" — we get a complete song.

      Unfortunately, the movie is in the public domain and the DVD transferis just as bad as the acting. My copy has only four chapter stops. Thatmeans you can get arthritis in your fast- forward finger trying tospeed through to where the good stuff is. The swamp you're movingthrough is Hollywood's version of the life and battles of the twoDorseys. Tommy, superb on trombone, and Jimmy, superb on saxophone,usually couldn't stand each other. In 1935 they finally split, withTommy starting his own orchestra. Each had greater success alone thanthey had achieved together. They reconciled when their father died inthe Forties, which is where the movie ends. They later managed totolerate each other in the orchestra led by Tommy as the big band erafaded out in the Fifties. Tommy died in 1956 at age 51, vomiting in hissleep after booze, pills and a big meal. Jimmy died of cancer at 53 in1957. Jimmy was hugely talented and, from all accounts, a reasonablyeasy-going guy. Tommy was hugely talented and, from all accounts, oftenan overbearing jerk. But good music makes up for a lot of faults, andthe Big Band sounds the two created helped define the swing era.

      They play themselves in the movie, and we see them develop fromtussling tykes (with child actors) to grown men battling and yammeringat each other. The movie is lumbered with not just their two parents,played by those Hollywood Irish clichés, Sara Allgood and ArthurShields, who just want their boys to get along with each other, butalso with a major sub- story involving a romance between Janet Blair,as a childhood friend of the Dorseys who becomes a vocalist with themand serves as a nearly full-time mediator and enabler, and WilliamLundigan, as a piano player. Blair is not bad at all. However, if youwant to see why she never became the star she quite probably shouldhave become, just look at the films, like this one, that her studio puther in. No wonder she left Hollywood. Lundigan simply takes up space.

      How bad is this movie, other than when we can actually hear the Dorseysplay? Well, here's a song written especially for the movie and given toBlair to warble. It's called "To Me."

      To me…you're the rose of a rosary…the rise of a rising sea…theglow of a star…

      The rose of a rosary? The movie doesn't get any better than this, andit can't get worse. Still, if you like the Dorseys and if the price isright…well, in hindsight I'd still not buy it. The highlight, for me,is Eberle and O'Connell singing "Green Eyes." You can watch them on YouTube for free. You'll also find there quite a bit of each of theDorseys. I wish I'd known.

    10. paulwl from Irvington, NY, USA
      12 Nov 2012, 12:15 am

      THE FABULOUS DORSEYS is not fabulous – a B feature with a C-minusscript and D-plus dialogue – but the music at least is enjoyable, asI'd expect from a picture starring not one but two big bandleaders.

      Laying aside the rickety wooden dialogue and nonexistent love duo, thestory is compressed but basically true: poor Irish mining familyproduces two talented musicians who don't get along, but rise quicklythrough the band business, start their own outfit, then inevitablybreak up. As a band nut I'd have liked to see mention of some of thename orchestras of the 20s including the Dorseys – Jean Goldkette?Freddie Rich? – or of Joe Haymes, a forgotten talent who sold Tommy hisfirst band. But that's just me.

      Janet Blair (like the brothers a Pennsylvania girl, and one-timevocalist with Hal Kemp's band) just lights up the screen every time wesee and hear her, leading us to wonder just what she sees in astuffed-shouldered cluck like William Lundigan. Other vocal highlightscome from ex-JD singers Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell and TD's thencurrent crooner, Stuart Foster. Instrumental stars Art Tatum, RayBauduc and Charlie Barnet add heart to a jam session sequence. PaulWhiteman, gruff, fast-talking and positive, obviously liked playingPaul Whiteman, liaison between fiction and musical reality.

      TD and JD are actually OK on screen – they weren't actors but oneshould not expect them to be. The fault there is with the mawkishlywritten dialogue that flops out of everyone's mouths. Their realpersonalities are visible, though toned down: Tommy's naturalside-of-the-mouth cockiness, Jimmy's salty dignity of the veterantrouper. (In reality Tommy was profane and given to physical violence;Jimmy was quiet, decent but more than a little bitter, and both hadlong love-hate relationships with John Barleycorn.)

      The real-life Dorseys – their music, their problems, their era – stillawait a full-dress Hollywood treatment before their names totally fadefrom the culture. It's easy to imagine, say, Ben Affleck and Ed Burnsin the roles of TD and JD, complete with booze, broads, cusswords,flying chairs, and original orchestrations, John Goodman as Whiteman,maybe even Chad Lowe as Tommy's organizer and drinking buddy JoeHaymes.

      (PS: Those commenting about how over-the-top Mom and Pop Dorsey's Irishbrogues were should understand that the actors playing them actuallywere Irish.)

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